Export Impact For Good

Countries / Territories

Country Profile South Korea




    Occupying the southern 45% of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia, the Republic of Korea (ROK), also known as South Korea, has an area of 98,480 km2. South Korea is bordered on the north by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), on the east by the Sea of Japan, on the south by the Korea Strait, and on the west by the Yellow Sea. 

    Agricultural sector

    The rapid development of the economy of the South Korea in the past 40 years has resulted in a declining role for the agricultural sector. The share of the agricultural sector fell from 27% of GDP and 50% of the labour force in 1970, to 3.3% and 6.4% in 1999, respectively (CIA, 2007). In other words, agriculture in the South Korea is characterized by a small family farm structure cultivating rice as a basic crop, while barley is the second most important crop. Other crops produced in South Korea are millet, corn, sorghum, buckwheat, soybeans, and potatoes, fruits and vegetables which  include pears, grapes, mandarin oranges, apples, peaches, Welsh onions, Chinese cabbage, red peppers, persimmons, cabbage, peaches, and radishes. Other important cash crops includes cotton, hemp, sesame, tobacco, and ginseng. Of the total land in use, 16.58% is arable land, 2% is crop land, and 81.40% is for other uses (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Korea).

    Brief overview of organic farming

    According to IFOAM & FiBL (2006), in the Republic of South Korea there are 28,218 hectares of land under organic management, with a share of total agricultural land of 1.46% and a presence of around 28,951 organic farms. According to UNESCAP, Korea is one of the major organic market in Asia. In the early 1990s, the government decided to adopt a sustainable agriculture development policy as an important agricultural policy and the Direct Payment Programme for sustainable farming practices was adopted in 1999. The main purpose of this programme is to pay farmers directly for the additional costs or farm income loss as a result of practicing sustainable agriculture. Consequently, the number of farms and cultivated areas of organic farming has been increasing very rapidly since the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, almost no organic agricultural products and foods are exported to foreign countries because the quantity is not enough to process for export. For this reason, no foreign donor agency is working in the Republic of Korea in the organic sector. Some Korean food companies import processed foods such as orange juice for baby food production (UNESCAP, 2006).

    Brief overview of key organic products

    The local organic products grown are: rice and vegetables. Reportedly, they produce 500 metric tons of organic rice a year. There are also productions of organic grapes, strawberries, and small oranges. Because most crops are produced in costly greenhouses, production of these goods is limited. The organic sector in the Republic of Korea is mostly domestic-oriented. Although the domestic demand of organic products has increased in South Korea, production has not been able to satisfy the growing domestic demand and therefore, most of the organic food sold in South Korea is imported. According to the largest Korean retailers of processed organic products, this segment has shown the most growth in the sector and is anticipated to continue to do so in the future (OTA).

    The network

    As already mentioned, there is no NGO or international organization working on the development of the organic sector in South Korea. Due to a high level of cancer caused by the indiscriminate use of chemicals during in the past decades, the local population is aware of the advantages of sustainable agriculture and organic food. However, initiatives in the development of this sector are left to the government and the private sector. It is expected that the increasing amounts of organic products demanded, will be imported because of the limited organic production in the Republic of Korea. The organic sector in South Korea offers many opportunities for foreign imported organic products (OTA).

    Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Korea
    Government Complex Gwacheon,
    Jungang-dong 1,
    Tel: +822 2110 4000


    - CIA FactBook, 31.05.07
    - FAO, 24.10.2006: Key Statistics of Food and Agriculture External Trade. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Statistics Division 

    - FAO, IFOAM, and Earth Net Foundation (2003): Proceedings of the Seminar on the Production and Export of Organic Fruit And Vegetables in Asia. 

    - IFOAM & FiBL (2006): The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2006. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Bonn & Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Frick, pp. 108-117. 

    - Organic Trade Association: OTA Market Overview. South Korean Organic Market.  

    - UNESCAP(2006)
    - Yussefi, Minou and Willer, Helga, Eds. (2003): The World of Organic Agriculture, Statistics and Future Prospects. Foundation Ecology and Agriculture, Germany and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.