Saddest news ever: South Korea is experiencing a kimchi shortage

Dennis Lee
whole heads of cabbage kimchi in bowl
whole heads of cabbage kimchi in bowl

South Korea is facing a kimchi shortage, Food & Wine has just reported. As the son of Korean immigrants, I find this piece of news absolutely gut-wrenching.

Kimchi is something I grew up eating every day and the idea seems unfathomable. This specific variety of kimchi is the one most of you know; it’s the classic Napa cabbage variety. This year, extreme weather (climate change, anyone?) including a long rainy season and three typhoons caused considerable damage to the cabbage crops

And now, with gimjang season coming up (the traditional wintertime kimchi-making rush), supplies of cabbage are low, driving the price up as well. Even the government is highly concerned. It’s created a “kimchi bailout program” which covers 30% of the cost of around 300,000 heads of cabbage to lessen the blow on urban shoppers while also assisting farmers at the same time. And to try and lessen the blow further, officials are cutting tariffs on imported Chinese cabbage which is less popular, but is an option.

Bloomberg reports that online sales are also adjusting to this unusual situation. Daesang Corp., South Korea’s leading kimchi producer, has had to pause online sales in order to deal with this issue.

But, thankfully not all is lost—a change from most of this year’s news. Recent bouts of good weather have been good for the crop, so pricing and production will likely stabilize by next month or so. But in the meantime, there’s going to have to be a little less banchan on the table.