January 17, 2007


South Korea to inspect labelling violations of farm import


The South Korean government plans to conduct a month-long campaign to detect labelling violations of imported agricultural goods before the Lunar New Year.


Labelling violations involving imported agricultural goods has increased in South Korea and authorities have stepped up efforts to clamp down on offenders. The false labels distort the domestic market, said the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.


Demand for domestic agricultural products increases during Lunar New Year's Day, which falls on Feb 18 this year.


Imports usually cost much less than locally grown produce and goods, which domestic consumers consider to be superior in quality. The price difference and preference by consumers translate into larger profit margins for businesses that disguise imports as locally grown produce.


Violators found selling imports as locally grown produce could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison or fined US$106,600, the ministry said.


Consumers have been urged to check the label of origin and to report to the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service in case of doubt.


In 2006, the government detected a total of 585 labelling violations, with 280 cases being referred for criminal investigation. Most violations last year occurred in imported pork, beef and chilli powder.