South Korea was an important market for U.S. pork exports in the mid-1990s, until the Asian currency crisis struck and exports fell off. Add to that an E.coli scare in 1997, and U.S. pork exports fell from 11,550 metric tons in 1997 to 9,918 metric tons in 1998.

The South Korean economy is now in recovery, with 6.2 percent growth in 2002 and an expected 4-5 percent in 2003. U.S. meat exports were right there to capitalize on the economic recovery, setting records for pork and beef exports to South Korea. U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to South Korea totaled 23,776 metric tons, a 61 percent increase over 2001. In value, pork exports to South Korea were up 62 percent to $40.9 million.

The Foreign Agricultural Service forecasts that Korean consumer spending will remain steady, again driving growth in demand for imports from the United States, including meat and processed meat products. Unemployment and inflation are expected to be low, and wages increasing.

The outlook for 2003 is dampened somewhat by the impending war in Iraq and a likely decline in consumer spending. A new president- Roh Moo-Hyun- was sworn into office on Feb. 25, and there is some fear that the newly elected incoming government will institute destabilizing reform policies, but little dramatic change is predicted.