U.S. surpasses Japan as top market for Korean food exports

By Im Yoon-seo Posted : May 13, 2024, 15:34 Updated : May 14, 2024, 17:18
Courtesy of Yonhap
This photo shows gimbap, a Korean dish made with cooked rice and various ingredients rolled in seaweed. Yonhap-AJU PRESS

SEOUL, May 13 (AJU PRESS) – The United States has overtaken Japan as the top market of Korean food exports this year, as shipments of ramen, kimchi and rice products soared, buoyed by the growing popularity of Korean pop culture.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Korea exported $479 million (650 billion won) worth of food to the U.S. until April, surpassing Japan’s $452 million and China’s $440 million.

During the same period last year, Japan was the primary export destination with $480 million, followed by China with $448 million and the U.S. with $413 million.

However, during the first four months of this year, exports to the U.S. increased by 15.9 percent year-on-year, while sales to Japan and China dipped by 5.7 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively, the data showed.

Ramen, processed rice products, and kimchi were the biggest drivers of the surge in food exports to the U.S.

Exports of Korean noodle products jumped 83 percent year-on-year to $64 million, while kimchi exports rose by 28 percent to $16 million.

Exports of rice-based products reached $49 million, marking a 58 percent increase from the previous year. The products include gimbap, made with cooked rice and various ingredients rolled in seaweed, and tteokbokki, made with rice cakes cooked in a spicy sauce.

“The recognition of K-food has increased following the popularity of Korean dramas and movies in the United States. A strong dollar also appears to have contributed to the increase,” a ministry official said.

Exports to China and Japan declined as the former grappled with slowing domestic consumption and the latter faced a weaker yen and sluggish consumer sentiment.
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