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Opportunities and Challenges in South Korea Food Market

This article introduces the opportunities and challenges in the Korean food market, as well as some suggestions to overcome the barriers.

On April 15, 2021, invited by FI Global, ChemLinked regulatory analyst Lorraine Li shared her opinions about the Korean food market in Fi Global CONNECT - Regions in the Spotlight1. She talked about the opportunities and challenges in the Korean food market and also gave her suggestions to overcome the barriers. ChemLinked presents the key points of the webinar in this article.

1. Overview

South Korea is a great place to expand food business in Asia. It has the 12th largest economy in the world, representing 1.6 trillion USD. The trade volume in 2019 remained the 8th across the globe. As South Korea has signed free trade agreements with many countries2, such as China, USA, European Union, ASEAN, Japan, Australia, etc., enterprises from these areas can enjoy preferential tariff rates.

The food market in South Korea also shows a steady upward trajectory in the last decades. The food market volume amounted to over 145.3 billion dollars in 2019. Despite the corona impact, the import value of many food categories, such as processed agriculture products, beer, and Kimchi, have seen increases last year.

2. Opportunities

2.1 Hot Imported Products in Great Need

1.jpgWith limited agricultural production capacity, South Korea relies heavily on imported processed food and livestock products. In 2020, South Korea imported over 7 billion USD processed food and 6 billion USD livestock products. Besides, health functional food is also in great demand amid the COVID-19. For enterprises intending to trade with S. Korea, the processed food, livestock products, and dietary product are great choices.

2.2 Promising Products

(A) General Food with Function Claims

With an increasing awareness of the importance of health, dietary supplement is in great demand. However, dietary supplement application is difficult and costly in South Korea. To ease company’s burden, the Korean authority issued a new law to introduce the "general food with function claims"3 last year. This regulation permits general food to label “function claims” if it contains specific functional ingredients.

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