In a situation that can only be described as a national emergency, South Koreans have found themselves in the grips of a kimchi shortage — thanks to unseasonably heavy rains that have ruined cabbage crops. The prices for Napa cabbage, the key ingredient in kimchi, have doubled in the past few weeks, with the price per head now averaging at about $10 to $12.
Kimchi, a dish made of fermented cabbage, chili paste and radish, is a staple of the Korean diet and is served with every meal in most households. (In a pinch, it can also double as a meal with a bowl of rice.) Many Koreans also put stock in this beloved condiment’s health benefits, which are said to include anti-aging and anti-obesity properties. (But really, we love it because it’s delicious.)
President Lee Myung-bak, in a show of solidarity with his countrymen, recently announced that he would only eat kimchi made from North American or European cabbage until the Napa cabbage shortage eases. This gesture, however, seems to have backfired, with some Koreans comparing his statement to Marie Antoinette’s imperious “Let them eat cake”- edict.
While the government has temporarily lifted tariffs on foreign cabbage, some think this shortage may just be a small taste of what’s to come. David Easterling of the Scientific Services Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climatic Data Center recently told The Washington Post that “a direct effect of climate change will be much more rainfall” — and, possibly, less Napa cabbage for kimchi-loving Koreans in the years to come.