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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Heads roll in Korean garlic war
Garlic
Korea has spent millions of dollars on garlic protection
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has sacked a top economic aide amid a growing row over imports of Chinese garlic.

Han Duck-Soo, the chief presidential adviser on economic affairs was forced to step down as Korean farmers protested against the idea of the market being flooded with cheap garlic from China, the world's biggest producer.

Two years ago Mr Han, in his previous job as minister of state for trade, oversaw a deal under which South Korea agreed to lift restrictions on Chinese-made garlic from next year.

China had piled enormous pressure on Korea to open its market, including a threat to ban imports of Korean mobile phones.

South Korean garlic farmers argue that they were not properly informed by the government of its regular swings in trade policy.

Kicking up a stink

The garlic row has sparked particular resentment in Korea because of accusations of government double-dealing.

Kim Dae-jung
President Kim says the trade ministry has been deceitful
The Korean trade ministry kept its pact with China secret, and has only now admitted that it made concessions.

At the time the pact was signed, Korea was imposing a 315% import tariff on Chinese garlic above a basic quota ceiling.

In all, the trade ministry spent 412bn won (226m; $355m) to help stabilise garlic prices over the past three years.

It is not certain what is going to happen to the garlic agreement now.

Trade tensions

Sino-Korean tension over garlic is only the latest in a series of regional trade spats.

Most recently, China and Japan settled a long-running row over trade in mushrooms, onions and rush matting.

At one stage, China slapped 100% tariffs on imports of Japanese cars, mobile phones and air conditioners.

Chinese trade is liberalising rapidly as a result of its recent accession to the World Trade Organisation.

But many of its neighbours remain suspicious of its intentions, and worry about its ability to flood many of the region's markets.



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15 Jul 02 | Business
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