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King crab price drop excites S. Korean seafood lovers

Oct. 19, 2023 - 16:41 By Moon Ki Hoon

South Korean seafood lovers are finding a silver lining amid the soaring food and grocery prices: dinner-plate-sized red king crabs, traditionally a luxury, are now available at surprisingly cheaper prices.

On Thursday, E-mart, a leading South Korean retailer, announced a price drop in Russian-imported red king crabs, offering a two-day special price event this weekend. The retail giant is offering Russia-imported king crabs for 5,980 won ($4.40) per 100 grams, nearly half of last month’s 10,980 won. These crabs, known for their outstanding quality, exceed 1.5 kg each and are delivered live to ensure freshness, according to company officials.

Similar trends are seen nationwide. Data from The Pirates, a local seafood sale platform, show that the price of king crabs across the country averaged 74,000 won per kilogram on Oct. 10, marking a 40 percent decrease from three months ago.

Why the sudden price drop? The answer can be traced to the complex interplay of international politics. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, the US and European Union banned Russian seafood imports amid sweeping economic sanctions targeting Moscow. Since South Korea notably excluded seafood from its sanctions against Russia, a surplus of Russian king crabs has flooded its markets over the past year, leading to a bonanza for seafood lovers.

The economic slowdown in China, a major importer of Russian seafood, also seems to have played a key role. With economic woes piling up, Chinese consumers spent less on food during this year's mid-autumn festival, a time traditionally marked by high seafood consumption. This reduced demand has further contributed to the surplus and subsequent price drop of king crabs in neighboring Korea, industry officials say.

Given the volatile nature of the seafood market, it remains rather unclear how long the influx of cheaper king crabs may last. While nobody knows for sure, experts project Korean consumers will be able to enjoy lower prices through the year's end.