[VIEWPOINT]Rethinking Denmark as a model

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[VIEWPOINT]Rethinking Denmark as a model

Even pigs have the right to live and die humanely, the Danes say, and so they instituted new regulations on their pork industry. Pigs being transported to slaughterhouses cannot be on the road for more than eight hours.

The new rule went into effect on May 15.

There is increasing attention being given to animal welfare and humane treatment these days, especially in Europe, where consumers want to patronize companies that practice humane butchering, if that is the proper way of expressing the concept. Denmark's new rules are a bid to further expand its markets; it is the world's leading exporter of pork products, and exports 85 percent of its domestic pork production.

That is a very significant market for the Danes. The value of pork exports last year was 3.9 billion euros. That amounts to 4.8 trillion won, or $3.5 billion, the equivalent of Korea's annual export of midsize sedans.

These humanely-treated Danish hogs have turned out to be a flagship of the country's exports. Pork products account for about 7 percent of total Danish exports and for about half of the country's agricultural exports.

Denmark is the second largest pork exporter even to Korea, on the other side of the world. About two percent of the domestic consumption of samgyeopsal, or uncured bacon, comes from Denmark.

South Korean Minister of Trade Hwang Doo-yun, who was one of the Korean representatives at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark last week, visited several Danish flagship companies.

One was Bruel & Kjaer, a firm with unique sound technology in the world market. Hyundai Motor is one of its clients. The technology allows automakers to detect where engine or other automotive system noises originate and decide how to suppress them. Another was Novo Nordisk, a world-class maker of medications for diabetics. It has a 40-percent global market share.

Denmark is a small country, with a population of 5.3 million occupying an area one-fifth the size of the Korean Peninsula, but gross domestic product per capita is more than $30,000. The country is a so-called "small but strong" country.

There was a fever of "Let us learn about Denmark" in Korea during the 1960s, President Park Chung Hee's era. Mr. Park's Saemaul (New Village) Movement was a campaign to bring prosperity to Korea's rural areas. Elementary school textbooks touted the success of Denmark's world-class dairy industry despite the less-than-lush land there.

That interest in Denmark waned, however, after Korea enthusiastically adopted a heavy industrialization model for its development. But Denmark still has some instructive lessons for us.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Denmark was a typical agricultural country; manufacturing industries were still in their infancy. Beginning in the late 1960s, however, the country embarked on an industrialization drive quite different from Korea's.

According to reports by the Korean Embassy in Copenhagen, agriculture accounts for just 3.3 percent of all Danish industrial output. The farming population makes up only 5 percent of the nation's work force. Denmark pursued a policy of opening itself to the outside world and developed "small but top-class" and knowledge-intensive industries. The country's labor-management relations are among the best in Europe.

The chief executive of B&K, where Mr. Hwang visited, was asked how his firm became the world's best in its field.

"This is the only way to feed ourselves with just 5 million in population. The only way is to concentrate on your business until you become the world's No. 1."

There is a good possibility that Korea could become a pork exporting country. Hogs grown in the climate here have just the right texture for human consumption.

But our pork imports have consistently surpassed imports, even before we had outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. Exports declined further after the outbreaks, while Denmark continues to be strong in exports of not only disease-free pork but also humanely treated hogs.


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The writer is a senior economic writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Su-gil

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