Trade History through Grocery Products
Trade History through Grocery Products
  • Sim Ye-eun
  • 승인 2021.12.22 22:39
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▲ A woman is shopping at grocery store (source=cnbc.com)
▲ A woman is shopping at grocery store (source=cnbc.com)

  In modern society, people can easily buy kiwis in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere. Kiwi is a familiar fruit to people and became one of the seven major fruits in Korea following apples, peaches, and tangerines. There was lots of naming and distribution history in kiwi before it became familiar with our daily lives.


  Including Kiwi, various agricultural products such as grapefruit, fish, and corn, which are familiar to people nowadays, also have disputes for distribution in various countries. Grocery products also include how Korea resolves trade disputes with various countries. Through these products, people could learn about various histories and commerce backgrounds of products that they see often in their lives.



The power of commerce through naming and distribution history of Kiwis

▲Kiwi fruit (source=Pinterest)
▲Kiwi fruit (source=Pinterest)

  People might know that the birthplace of kiwi is New Zealand. However, the country of real origin of kiwi is China. The original name of “Kiwi” was “Chinese gooseberry”. After the Korean war that broke out in the 1950s, people started having hostility to China because China caused a lot of damage by participating in the Korean war. Therefore, people did not have a good image of Chinese Gooseberry because of “Chinese”, the naming of fruits. Since American fruit distributors tried to change the name of Gooseberry, they proposed “Melonet”, which is similar in appearance to Melon and fits a small size. However, at that time, as the U.S imposed high tariffs on imported Melon, there was a concern that distribution costs would increase. Eventually, in 1962, American fruit distributors gave a name “Kiwi” to this fruit because it was similar to the national bird, the kiwi bird of New Zealand.


  The trading process of kiwi was also not easy because it is related to Chile and New Zealand. In the 2010s, New Zealand kiwi supplier Zespri had offered a direct transaction condition that Korea does not sell Chilean kiwis during the supply of kiwis from New Zealand to large markets in Korea. Therefore, 55% of the distribution routes of Chile were blocked. As Kiwis from Chile disappeared from markets, leading to higher prices of Zespri kiwis. The Korea Fair Trade Commission judged blocking the distribution routes of Chile as an unfair action. They imposed a surcharge with an order to stop doing that unfair measure. Since then, Chilean kiwis have been lowered due to the Korea-Chile FTA (Free Trade Agreement) and freely distributed in large marts, which has promoted price competition and allowed kiwis prices to fall.


The history of strengthening Korea's quarantine system through the dispute of Grapefruits

▲Grapefruit Tree (source=Pinterest)
▲Grapefruit Tree (source=Pinterest)

  On April 4, 1995, there was a case in which the U.S. sued Korea to WTO (World Trade Organization) for the delay in customs clearance related to the quarantine of domestic grapefruits. At that time, Korea had to hire lawyers specializing in international trade to solve this dispute because Korea lacked experience in multilateral dispute resolution. Nonetheless, the U.S. took issue with Florida grapefruit, which was decaying at the time due to delays in customs clearance, and requested for the abolition of the corrupt fruit screening system for California fruits. 


  The U.S. filed a complaint with the WTO, even though Korea informed the U.S. government that Korea would introduce a "post-clearing inspection" in advance on April 1, 1995, and announced “the pre-Custom and post-inspection system” on April 3, 1995, Korea already had a plan to overhaul the quarantine system to the international level. Hence, this dispute served as an opportunity to speed up the improvement of the system. Finally, the corrupt fruit screening system was abolished in December 1996. Because of this dispute with the U.S., Korea's quarantine system has been operating closely and reasonably so far.

* Customs clearance means the set of requirements and formalities related to the entry and exit of goods from the Customs Law.


Miraculous victory in Fukushima Marine products

▲ A WTO dispute on marine products in Fukusima (source=news.sbs.co.kr)
▲ A WTO dispute on marine products in Fukusima (source=news.sbs.co.kr)

  As many people enjoy eating seafood, the environment in which seafood is grown became very important for consumers because the opportunities to access foreign products increase as trade volume expands. There is a case of trade disputes related to the origin of marine products that have continued until relatively recently. 


  In March 2011, a nuclear power plant in Fukushima exploded due to a great earthquake in Japan, releasing nuclear radioactive materials. After two years, Japan announced that some radioactivity-contaminated cooling water leaked into the sea. Since 2013, Korea has imposed an import prohibition on all marine products near Fukushima. Therefore, Japan filed a complaint with the WTO in May 2015, claiming that Korea's import prohibition was unfair discrimination against Japan and excessively restricted trade. After two trials between Japan and Korea, WTO finally determined that Korea's import regulation measures are based on the WTO agreement in April 2019. 


  After this case, the dispute over Japanese marine products has been concluded, but the anxiety of consumers about Japanese marine products has not disappeared until now. To reduce the anxiety, the Korean government has decided to reinforce the radioactivity checking system. Not only the government but also the Korean people, who are consumers have to claim and refute the distribution of Japanese marine products. The reason is that Korean are the people who enjoy eating seafood and are at risk of expose to radiation.


  On September 7, Yoo Myung-hee, a Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs said "To finalize the negotiations, you need to understand the underlying concerns and interests of the parties.” Nowadays and in the future, there will be so many conflicts around the world in the process of importing and exporting goods. In these situations, it is necessary not only to take care of the interests of our country but to negotiate rationally in consideration of the interests of various countries to achieve better trade.


  People could think these trade agreements and dispute stories are far from them. However, these stories are related to things that people could not miss in their daily lives. It could affect people’s lives because of one trivial agreement. Therefore, people need to give their opinion and exert influence on issues of products by various actions.


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