Time now for our "Life & Info" segmentwhere we focus on information useful for your everyday life whether you are in Korea or somewhere else in the world.
We have our business correspondent Kim Hyesung in the studio today to discuss pork prices in South Korea, which have fallen in the wake of the African swine fever outbreak.
Hyesung, tell us more.
Mark, the first confirmed case of African swine fever in South Korea was in Paju on September 17th. Prices spiked immediately, like the next day in both retail and wholesale markets.
But as of the end of October, pork prices at retail stores like supermarkets have fallen to less than one-dollar-50 cents per 100 grams.
Take a look at this chart.
On September 16th, a day before the first case of African swine fever, the pork price was at a-dollar-70 cents, and it soared to near one dollar and 90 cents as the virus spread across the country.
But the trend fell away and the price is now at around a-dollar-and-a-half.
That's lower than last year's average and average pork prices over the past five years.
2. You would think prices would go up, like in China, which saw pork prices soar over the past year due to the African swine fever outbreak there. Why are pork prices falling in South Korea?
Right, so it has to do with supply and demand. Due to fears of African swine fever spreading even further, farmers released more pork into the market.
The South Korean government also carried out pre-emptive culling of pigs to contain the spread of the disease, a total of at least 150-thousand livestock.
But the thing is consumer demand for pork has dropped out of concerns that pork contaminated with the virus would be bad for human health.
Due to higher supply and lower demand, wholesale prices have dropped by almost a dollar to two dollars and 70 cents per kilogram as of yesterday.
3. For listeners who might not know, what exactly is African swine fever?
African swine fever causes a hemorrhagic fever that's lethal to pigs and there's no vaccine.
It originated in Africa, has been seen in Europe then entered Asia, first in China in August 2018 then spread across over 10 Asian countries, including Vietnam, Mongolia and Korea.
It has been known to exist for about a hundred years but there has been no research showing pigs with the virus poses a health risk to humans.
At a government briefing last Friday, South Korea's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, (Kim Hyun-soon)cited research from the World Organization for Animal Health that only pigs get African swine fever virus and it can't infect humans.
But consumers are still concerned. Take a listen.
"I am worried. Even though government authorities say contaminated pork poses no harm to humans, it could be that there's no research on the effect yet. So I don't plan to eat pork for about a year. The piglets from the culled pigs could have the virus too. So I am concerned."
"Reports say it's ok to eat swine flu contaminated pork as long as it is cooked or boiled, but I am still worried so I'm choosing other kinds of meat instead."
A survey by Korea Rural Economic Institute shows one out of two Korean consumers are concerned about the safety of pork.
As a result of falling demand, pork sales between October 1st and 28th, dropped around 13 percent on-year at E-mart.
Sales of beef jumped 20 percent on-year, chicken also went up slightly.
4. So what's the price outlook heading forward? Do we expect it to continue falling?
It's hard to say. Look at China, which consumes half of the world's pork. China's pig supply has been cut by a third over the past year due to African swine fever. In October, Prices soared 150 percent on-year.
Due to the shortage of pork, the South China Morning Post even said people are looking to dog and rabbit meat as substitutes.
In the Philippines, the disease led to a monthly loss of 20 million dollars as authorities had to cull more pigs.
At the end of the day, pork prices in South Korea depend on whether the disease can be contained in the northern part of the country.
A total of 16 cases have confirmed so far, including one just yesterday.
Cases will have to be contained to allay consumers' concerns, and if the culled pork floating in the market goes down, the supply to demand ratio would stabilize, helping prices to stabilize as well.
I see, thank you for the useful information, Hyesung.