Earlier this month, the great Korean kimchi crisis hit the headlines across the world.
A combination of poor planning and bad weather had devastated the Korean cabbage harvest, according to reports. The price of just one head of napa cabbage had gone up tenfold, to $14.
Households were finding it difficult to afford kimchi, the pickled and fiery cabbage that seems to be worked into almost every Korean meal. Even the president vowed to swap long, delicate Napa cabbage for cheap round cabbage.
The government abolished import taxes on cabbage and thousands of tons of Chinese cabbage began to flood the market, in a bid to bring prices down.
However, just a few weeks after it began, the bubble has apparently popped, and not because of Chinese imports.
Prices for napa cabbage have plunged back down to normal levels, and the Agriculture ministry says it wholesale prices will be back down to 1,300 won a cabbage ($1.15) by November. The Chinese cabbage is selling for 2,000 won each, and is widely unloved and untrusted. Chinese cabbages have already been taken off the shelves at many supermarkets.
What happened? It turns out that the harvest was not as bad as previously thought, and that Korea may actually grow more cabbage this Autumn than last year. There have been no accusations of skullduggery yet, but it seems to me that the line in this report about "opportunistic" farmers suggests that there could have been some cabbage stockpiling – in the hope of restricting market supply. Is there a kimchi regulator?
Evidently someone made plenty of money, but it has left the Korean government with a bit of a headache. How do ministers send the unwanted Chinese cabbage back to China without offence?