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Kimchi exports hit all-time high in Q1

Kimchi products are displayed at a grocery store on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Kimchi products are displayed at a grocery store on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s kimchi exports hit an all-time high in the first quarter of this year, recording the biggest trade surplus, government data showed on Wednesday.

Overseas sales of kimchi recorded $46.6 million in the first quarter, breaking the previous record of $42 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Korea Customs Service and the food industry here. Imports was $38.5 million in the first quarter.

The trade surplus of $8.06 million marks the biggest in 11 years and three months, since the fourth quarter of 2009, when the country logged a surplus of $9.34 million in trade of kimchi.

Kimchi is South Korea’s traditional side dish of fermented vegetables, such as cabbage and radish, marinated in spicy red pepper condiments.

The popularity of kimchi has grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the traditional dish abundant in so-called “good bacteria” that is known to be beneficial to health and the immune system.

Japan kept up its role as the main importer of kimchi for South Korea, purchasing $24.72 million in the first quarter, up 67.9 percent on-year. The US saw its imports grow by 80.6 percent to import $8.46 million, while Hong Kong’s imports of kimchi grew by 50.3 percent to record $2.34 million, according to the customs agency.

Data also showed kimchi exports in this year’s first quarter grew by 54.3 percent on-year, surpassing the growth rate imports, which was 7.4 percent.

By volume, however, kimchi sold to overseas markets was 11,181 metric tons, while those imported to Korea was 67,940 tons, in the first quarter.

Korean-made kimchi exported to other countries are much more expensive than the kimchi made outside of the country and imported here.

By Jo He-rim (