[EDITORIALS]Prevent a food fightThe Chinese kimchi scare is taking on new dimensions and seems to be heading for dangerous territory. The Chinese government just announced that parasite eggs have been discovered in ten Korean food products such as kimchi, hot pepper sauce and spices for grilled beef. China imposed an import ban on those products while strengthening the monitoring process for related food items. We are worried that this may be a counterattack by the Chinese who have been complaining about recent allegations that Chinese kimchi, eels and other food products imported to Korea contain parasite eggs or other hazardous elements. This issue should not generate trade friction between the two sides. Both countries need to come up with measures through close cooperation to resolve the issue.
Looking at what has been disclosed so far, there are a couple of things on the Chinese side that do not make any sense. Our government has said that the majority of companies implicated by the Chinese are not exporting any kimchi to China. In addition, the production of hot pepper sauce and spices for grilled beef involves a production process that greatly lowers the possibility of parasite eggs existing in such food products. This leads to the conclusion that the cited products might be counterfeits of Korean food products that are being produced and distributed within China.
The measures taken by the Chinese side must be respected. But since there is another country involved at the end of their measures, there should be no question marks lingering. China needs to tell us about the collection process of the products and its inspection methods. Only then can it show that the measures it takes regarding Korean products are not merely retaliation. Since one company implicated also exports its kimchi products to Japan, solving any existing suspicions is key to preventing additional damage.
Through the kimchi scare, problems with the two countries’ administration of food products have emerged. In China, small-scale Korean businessman produce and export low quality food products made under hazardous conditions. Due to lax monitoring systems and flaws in quarantine inspections, unqualified food items have entered Korea. Thus, both the governments of Korea and China need to cooperate to improve the system and customs inspections. A good example of cooperation is a recent agreement reached by ministers from both sides to have the Chinese government issue hygiene certificates for the live fish China exports to Korea.