Time is running out but the Korean government is putting off a final decision on rice market liberalization.
The government was going to announce its position over the issue at an economy-related ministers' meeting on Monday but instead said more time was needed to reach a consensus.
"We will gather more opinions from the parliament and other related parties to draw a reasonable conclusion on how to develop the nation's rice industry based on the analysis."
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The delay comes amid strong protests by local farmers, who say the market liberalization is all about protecting food sovereignty.
The government is now likely to aim for mid-July after a public hearing on the issue at the National Assembly on July 15th.
Korea must notify the World Trade Organization by the end of September on whether it plans to open its rice market.
Under a 1994 agreement with the WTO, Korea had promised to liberalize its rice market, but because rice is a staple food of the nation, the government was allowed to put off the move for 20 years, in exchange for gradually raising its rice import quota.
The 20-year period is set to expire at the end of this year.
The government earlier this month said it's moving toward opening up the rice market, saying that raising the import quota even more to delay opening the market simply costs too much.
A high-ranking official at Korea's agriculture ministry says that while the official announcement has been delayed, the government maintains that rice market liberalization is inevitable.
Hwang Ji-hye, Arirang News.