South Korea imported a record amount of kimchi last year as inflation hit prices of cabbage and other key ingredients used to make the pickled dish.
The value of imported kimchi totaled $169.4 million last year, up more than 20% from the year before, according to data from the Korea Customs Service released Wednesday. In volume terms, the country imported 263,434 tons of kimchi, a 9.5% increase from 2021 but lower than the level of 281,187 tons in 2020.
The shipments are mainly from China, where the price of kimchi can be as low as one-fifth the price of Korea-made kimchi.
Kimchi is ubiquitous in Korea, both as a side and as an ingredient in other dishes such as stews. Many restaurants had already long been using imported kimchi, but recent price increases in cabbage and other ingredients such as red pepper have forced them to step up the use of imports.
Inflation in South Korea stayed elevated at 5% in December, more than twice the central bank’s target. However, inflation is expected to ease to 3.6% this year as energy prices soften.