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Kimchi Shortage Rocks South Korea, Frantic Government Lifts Tariffs on Cabbage Imports

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In Korea, over the past 12 months, the price of cabbage--the main ingredient in kimchi, the country's national dish--has risen over 400% to 11,500 won ($10) from 4,000 won two weeks ago, and 2,500 won a month ago.

"This is the first time that cabbage prices have gone up so much," Park Young-koo, researcher at the Korea Rural Economic Institute, told the Wall Street Journal. "Since we have monitored the price, nothing like this has happened before."

Wee Doo-hwan, secretary general of the progressive Korean Peasants League, told the Korea Times, “The vegetable prices went up because land for farming has been removed for the four-river refurbishment project while the weather has been strange and we received too much rainfall. We need to correct the problem at its root rather than depending on imports. We don’t know if this crisis will come again.”

But out-of-control cabbage hoarding has become rampant, and before anyone can "correct the problem at its root," the government has stepped in with unprecedented emergency measures to stave off a crisis of historic proportions by lifting all tariffs on imported cabbages, which are usually a steep 27%, and will bring in the vegetable from China until supply firms up once again.

Koreans certainly does love theyselves some kimchi. Visitors to the nation of 50 million can tour the Kimchi Museum:

Visit the the World Institute of Kimchi:

                                 Park Wan-Soo, Director of the World Kimchi Institute

And it was a point of national pride when freeze-dried kimchi traveled to space with Korea’s first astronaut in 2008:

                                    Ko San, the first astronaut to eat kimchi in space

In fact, kimchi is so important to Koreans, The Economist writes:

"Faced with a choice however, between Chinese kimchi on the one hand and no kimchi at all on the other, Koreans’ famed national pride is likely to yield, at least for a little while. However, the emotional resistance toward buying Chinese cabbage is evident among consumers here. In 2005, Korea and China engaged in a trade dispute over Chinese-made kimchi products after the Korea Food and Drug Administration found them to be contaminated by parasite eggs."

Parasite eggs or no, the people of Korea will just have to swallow their collective pride if they are to sate the kimchi monkey on their collective back.

"I don't know how long I can keep ignoring my grandkids and my husband's demands for kimchi every meal," Kim Hyung-sook, who lives in northern Seoul, told the Associated Press. "You're not Korean if you don't eat kimchi three times a day."

Amen, sister. Amen.
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