Koreans rely heavily on imported food
By Yi Whan-woo
Koreans like to eat imported food. They depend on it for their everyday meals more than other nationals, a government study showed Wednesday.
Each Korean consumed 468 kilograms of imported food in 2010. This is 1.3 times higher than the Japanese and this preference has been increasing annually, according to the Ministry of Environment.
The ministry conducted research on four countries including the United Kingdom and France. The yearly consumption of foreign products in Britain recorded 411 kg while in France it was 403 kg.
Nine categories of imported products were deemed essential for daily nutrition: grains, meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, cooking oil, sugar and drinking water.
“We especially saw an increased dependency on grains, vegetables, and fruit over the past few years,” said Lee Dong-won, a senior researcher at the ministry’s climate change research division.
“The fact we have to depend on other countries for rice, cabbage, and even drinking water means we’re absolutely not self-reliant in terms of our basic needs.”
The dependency has increased steadily, up from 410 kg per person in 2001.
In contrast three other countries have been controlling the amount of imported products. Japan saw 396 kg per person in 2001, but the rate continued to drop until 2010.
Britain maintained the rate of 411 kg per person from 2003 to 2010.
Burden on environment
Lee said the dependency on overseas food is a burden in terms of the global environment.
“The more we purchase products from other countries, the higher shipping costs we bear,” he said. “And frequent shipping results in a heavy toll on greenhouse gas emissions.”
Each Korean was responsible for 142 kg of greenhouse gas in 2010 for consuming imported food in 2010. The rate was above that of three other nationals: a Japanese person accounted for 123 kg while a French person and a Briton measured 96 and 95 kg, respectively.
“Consuming food produced locally is important as it not only boosts local industry but also helps to protect the world’s environment that is undergoing severe climate change,” Lee said.
“We’ll launch a nationwide campaign to raise people’s awareness on the effects of imported food in terms of the environment.”