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[Opinion] The Year of Rice

Posted December. 31, 2003 23:02,   


Rice includes even amounts of all the important nutritional groups such as a carbohydrates, vitamins, and fiber. The reason why Koreans are healthier than Western people largely depending on wheat is due to rice, even though they eat fewer vegetables and less meat. Because the fat content of rice is very low, rice effectively prevents diabetes and obesity. In the case of the land’s capacity to support the population, rice is also superior to other grains. Hence, countries having high population density such as Korea live largely on rice.

UN declared this year “the year of rice” because rice productivity has seriously decreased at an international level. They said that the world needed mutual assistance in increasing rice production in order to save 800 million starving people. It is really ironic. Korea has been troubled with managing rice overstocks. Thus, our problem with rice seems to be a hot issue regardless of UN’s establishment of “the year of rice.”

The agricultural agreement of Uruguay Round in 1994, lifted the ban in rice markets was postponed for a while with the negotiation scheduled to resume in 2004, was reached between WTO member countries and Korea. A farmer is ready to die to prevent open rice markets, but the international environment has been inclined to the inevitability of opening the door for rice. Japan (rice) and Israel (mutton) agreed to postpone opening the door for particular items already removed from the prohibition. It seems that our supporters have disappeared. Besides, China now joining the WTO worsens the situation. It would be truly difficult for Korea to endure the pressure from a block against the U.S. and China, one of the biggest trade partners.

Farmers have to take a conciliatory attitude, but the government should not rebuke only farmers for their weak competitive power. Our cultivating technology of rice is the best, but there is a limit, being much more expensive than international price of rice, because of expensive land and labor cost. The win-win strategy of the Korean rural community and international relations is that the government immediately compensates farmers for losses coming from an open market and improves the quality of farmers’ life. I hope everyone will cooperate with each other well this year.

Kwang Am Chun An editorial writer iam@donga.com