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Authorities to step up safety checks of imported kimchi

The Ministry of Food and Drug's official speaks during a press briefing held in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)
The Ministry of Food and Drug's official speaks during a press briefing held in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)

South Korea will introduce measures to ensure the safety of imported kimchi, such as conducting onsite inspections at around 100 kimchi production facilities overseas by 2025, the Ministry of Food and Drug said Thursday.

The move came after a video of a kimchi-processing plant in China went viral in South Korea for exposing its poor hygiene and sanitation conditions. In the clip, a naked man is seen swishing cabbages back and forth through a waist-deep pool of unidentifiable brownish liquid, in what appears to be the process of salting the cabbage. A lot of kimchi consumed in Korea are imported from the country.

The Ministry of Food and Drug said this year it would inspect 26 overseas kimchi factories that sell its products to Korea and 20 sites annually until 2025.

The ministry said it has been keeping track of such foreign food vendors and conducted onsite inspections when safety issues were raised.

Between 2016 and 2019, the ministry conducted onsite inspections of 87 foreign kimchi production facilities, it added.

The ministry noted that it would conduct remote inspections when necessary due to the coronavirus travel restrictions by utilizing various tools, such as smart glasses.

The ministry will also hold meetings with other foreign governments in a bid to convince their kimchi production companies accept HACCP principles. Short for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, HACCP is an internationally recognized system of identifying and managing food safety related risks.

The ministry will also strengthen its inspection at the customs clearance stage by asking local authorities to double check the safety of imported food products.

The ministry added that it would review its testing requirements and filter out foreign kimchi producers that should go through a more thorough vetting process.

Meanwhile, the government will also conduct extensive inspections at 1,000 local distributors and restaurants, while requesting authorized agencies to review 250 kimchi products that are currently circulated in the domestic market.

By Shim Woo-hyun (