Seafood from Japan, China labeled KoreanImporters of seafood lied about the origin of their products and ended up passing off Japanese and Chinese products as Korean.
The Korea Customs Service said yesterday that it cracked down on the imported seafood business and discovered 8,000 tons, or 65 billion won ($61.62 million), worth of products that were mislabeled in terms of their origin.
The percentage of phony seafood imports rose to 23 percent of companies investigated, 12 times higher than last year’s crackdown, which only involved 2 percent.
Radiation from the stricken Japanese nuclear plant in Fukushima has scared Korean consumers away from Japanese imports, including seafood caught far from Fukushima waters.
Importers who mislabeled Japanese products simply wanted to unload them, while seafood from China was mislabeled as Korean to fetch a higher price.
“Cheaper Chinese seafood products were priced at least three times higher with Korean labels,” said Byun Dong-ook, a director of the customs service special audit division.
The service investigated 143 businesses for 10 days from March 12 to 21 and caught 33 businesses faking their products’ origin, 25 of which were domestic distributors, or 73 percent of the whole. The number of companies investigated was triple last year’s.
“Since various kinds of seafood festivals are planned in the spring, we held an investigation in order to prevent possible complications that could threaten public health,” another official of the Korea Customs Service said. “We are also hoping that this investigation could ease public concerns over the ambiguity of seafood origin.”
The investigation showed that the guilty companies either completely removed the country of origin, lied about it or were vague and misleading.
Only one of the cheating companies was fined.
BY KIM HAE-YOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]