What's Causing South Korea's 'Once In a Century Crisis'

Rainy weather has decimated the supply of Napa cabbage and garlic in Korea, two key ingredients in the famous and ubiquitous kimchi dish. "Kimchi has become so expensive that some restaurants in the capital no longer offer it free as a banchan, or side dish, a situation akin to having an American burger joint charge for ketchup, although decidedly more calamitous." Whoa.

The politics editor of a major South Korean newspaper called the kimchi situation "a national tragedy," and an editorial in Dong-a Ilbo termed it "a once in a century crisis."

Wholesalers and economists have blamed overly rainy weather for the cabbage shortage, as well as fewer acres having been planted after a bumper crop and low prices in 2009. The average price for a head of Napa cabbage last year was $1.40, according to food industry figures.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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