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Industry Report

Industry reports, briefs issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

How to Save Korea's Agriculture

How to Save Korea's Agriculture

MIN Seung-Kyu

Dec. 19, 2005

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Korea's agricultural sector has long languished in crisis. Its share in the GDP has plunged from 25.5% in 1970 to a mere 3.2% in 2004.

Moreover, the country's farming households have been drowning under the weight of mounting debts. Their debts per household have almost tripled to 26.89 million Won on average over the past decade. The National Assembly, Korea's parliament, cleared a new legislative bill for rice imports on November 23, pouring more fuel to the fire of anger in the farming community. Farmers have taken to the streets to protest the government's rice import measures. They are losing hope for the future. A recent survey shows that fewer than 10% of farmers across the country believe their living standards will improve in the next five years.

Growing imports, shortage of farming innovation, ineffective government support - these are some of the factors that have deepened the crisis. Under the accelerated market-opening, Korea is losing out to imported farm products, which further aggravates farmer's income. But Korean farmers must also assume part of the blame for failing to adjust to the newly emerging trends, having depended too long on government subsidies.

The government shares the blame for focusing its policy on supporting or subsidizing farmers with fiscal appropriations, rather than taking steps to strengthen their competitiveness. It's time to change this policy, so that rural communities and agro-industry will together embark on a new strategy of survival, renewal, and growth.

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