Packaged kimchi products are displayed at a supermarket in central Seoul in this file photo taken on Oct. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)
South Korea's exports of kimchi touched an all-time high in the first quarter of the year thanks to its popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Wednesday.
Overseas shipments of kimchi came to $46.57 million in the January-March period, up 54.3 from a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service and industry sources.
It represents the largest-ever quarterly figure and breaks the previous yearly record of $42.08 million registered in the second quarter of last year.
Imports of kimchi stood at $38.51 million in the first quarter, up 7.4 percent from a year earlier, resulting in a surplus of $8.06 million in the country's kimchi trade.
The surplus is the largest since the black ink of $9.35 million recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish normally made of fermented cabbage, salt and hot peppers, and is eaten with almost all meals.
By volume, South Korea's kimchi exports came to 11,181 tons in the three-month period, about one-sixth of 67,940 tons in imports.
Industry watchers attributed the first-quarter rise in kimchi exports to the popularity of the fermented food that is considered to boost the body's immunity level amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the first quarter, kimchi exports to Japan spiked nearly 68 percent on-year to $24.72 million, with those of the United States soaring 80.6 percent to $8.46 million. Shipments to Hong Kong jumped 50.3 percent to $2.34 million, according to the data. (Yonhap)