In a remarkable feat fueled by the worldwide fascination with Korean entertainment content, South Korea's iconic dish, kimchi, achieved record-breaking export figures in 2023. According to data unveiled by the Korea Customs Service, outbound shipments of kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented cabbage, surged by 7.1 percent, reaching an impressive 44,041 tons.
This record-setting figure surpassed the previous export milestone set in 2021, when kimchi exports amounted to 42,544 tons. In terms of monetary value, the exports soared to $155.6 million in 2023, marking a substantial 10.5 percent increase compared to the previous year.
Agricultural ministry officials attribute this significant surge in kimchi exports to the ever-growing popularity of K-content, Korean entertainment content that has captivated audiences globally.
Japan emerged as the primary destination for kimchi exports last year, with a substantial 20,173 tons making its way to the country. Following closely were the United States, importing 10,660 tons, and the Netherlands with 1,756 tons, according to the data.
While South Korea celebrated its export success, the country also reported kimchi imports totaling $163.5 million in 2023, experiencing a slight decrease of 3.4 percent compared to the previous year. The trade deficit amounted to $7.95 million.
Notably, South Korea imports kimchi, primarily from China, due to the comparatively high production costs in the domestic market. This trade dynamic underscores the global demand for kimchi, positioning it as not only a beloved culinary delight but also a cultural phenomenon contributing to South Korea's economic footprint on the international stage.