Korean kimchi exports reach record high in 2023 amid global K-content popularity

South Korea’s iconic dish, kimchi, has achieved record-high exports in 2023, fueled by the increasing global popularity of Korean entertainment content, known as K-content.

In a remarkable trend highlighting the fusion of culinary delights and cultural influence, South Korea’s iconic dish, kimchi, has witnessed an unprecedented surge in exports in 2023. Fueled by the ever-growing popularity of Korean entertainment content, known as K-content, kimchi has become a global sensation, reaching new milestones in both volume and value of exports.

Data compiled by the Korea Customs Service reveals that outbound shipments of kimchi experienced a notable 7.1 per cent increase, soaring to an impressive 44,041 tons in the past year. This not only surpassed the previous record set in 2021, with 42,544 tons but also showcased the enduring appeal of traditional Korean cuisine on the world stage.

In terms of value, kimchi exports amounted to a substantial $155.6 million in 2023, reflecting a significant 10.5 per cent year-on-year growth. The surge in kimchi exports is primarily attributed to the global fascination with K-content, which encompasses a wide range of Korean cultural exports, including television dramas, music, films, and more.

An official from South Korea’s agricultural ministry highlighted the pivotal role played by the increased popularity of K-content in driving the demand for kimchi internationally. The unique blend of entertainment and culinary experiences has created a cultural phenomenon, with consumers around the world embracing traditional Korean dishes as part of their daily lives.

Japan emerged as the top destination for kimchi exports in 2023, importing a substantial 20,173 tons. Following closely were the United States, with 10,660 tons, and the Netherlands, with 1,756 tons. The global appeal of kimchi underscores the cross-cultural influence of South Korea, transcending borders and captivating diverse audiences.

While kimchi exports soared to new heights, South Korea faced a trade deficit in 2023 concerning kimchi imports. The country imported kimchi predominantly from China, with the total import value reaching $163.5 million. Despite a 3.4 per cent decline compared to the previous year, the imports contributed to a trade deficit of $7.95 million.

The success of kimchi on the international stage reflects the interconnectedness of food and entertainment, where cultural elements intertwine to shape global preferences. South Korea’s culinary exports, particularly the iconic kimchi, stand as a testament to the country’s soft power and cultural influence, reaching corners of the world previously untouched by Korean traditions.

As K-content continues to captivate audiences worldwide, the global appetite for Korean cuisine, including kimchi, is expected to grow, further solidifying South Korea’s position as a cultural trendsetter with a delectable twist.