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Fishing Industry Of South Korea

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The fishing industry of South Korea had been fueled by their rapid economic growth of Gross Domestic Product(GDP) at a rate of 7% between the 1970s and the 2000s, while taking into account the nation’s 1997-1998 Economic Crisis[1]. In the 1960-1970’s, South Korea’s export of Fishery products peaked at approximately 17.5% of their total export value, being a key player in the nation's total GDP. In 2001 South Korea’s fishing industry turned for the worse as their trade balance became a deficit[1]. Becoming the 12th largest fishery producer in the world, South Korea accounted for 2.1% of the world’s fish production, reaching 3.1 million tonnes in 2010[2].

The Commercial Sector

South Korea’s commercial fishing industry started to boom in the 1950's during which commercial companies were only operating in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) where 98% of the landings were from these waters. This numerically translates to approximately 216,000 tonnes of fish and other marine life. A majority of these fish during the 1950s were largehead hairtail[3].

The Recreational Sector

Recreational fishing in South Korea has been existent for over hundreds of years and is essentially divided into inland and marine fishing. Marine fishing involves the use of a boat, enabling recreational fishers to have access to different areas of the ocean, expanding their on-shore(inland) fishing. Residents of South Korea started to use boats as a mode of transport to aid their fishing and was reported that they initiated this in 1971[3]. This segment of fishing is regulated and enacted upon by the Fisheries Act of 1908(or the latest one; Chosun Fishery Act of 1929) and the Recreational Fishing Boats Operation Act(RFBOA). The Chosun Fishery Act's purpose is to regulate shore enclosures and implement minimum size catches. While the latter is in charge of the operational aspects that ensure the safety of fishers through boat inspections[4].

In the year of 2008, South Korea reportedly had 6 524 000 recreational fisher, which consisted of 37% inland, 27% marine and 36% of both. However total annual recreational catches were around 850 tonnes in 1971 in which is seen to be increased by 53 000 tonnes in 2010. The major types of fish caught by recreational fishers were generally Acanthopagrus schlegelii, Girella punctata, Oplegnathus fasciatus and Pagrus major.[3](insert graph)

Fish Culture of South Korea

Seafood Consumption Rate

South Korea holds one of highest seafood production and consumption rate in the world, and since 1980, their per capita daily average fish consumption has been ever-increasing by 2.2%. The consumption of fish species such as yellow croaker, hair tail and flat fish are the more traditional taste, whereas since the start of 2000's, South Koreans has seen to move to high-valued seafood such as King crab, salmon and shrimp. It is known that the expenditure of particular fish species do positively correlate with an individual's income. Where an individual's income increases, their expenditure of fish also becomes higher.

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Fish culture and fish consumption also is determined by seasonal changes that occur. Certain fish species that are most consumed in Winter are the Alaska pollock and cod, whereas the hair tail and mackerel fish are generally consumed during the summer. Delicacies such as Flat fish is a cultural dish within South Korea where a majority consumes it as sashimi, sharing its food culture with Japan. [1]

Over fishing

Overfishing is an issue prevalent among the three major seas surrounding South Korea. One of the major offenders of illegal fishing are Chinese commercial vessels that often breach EEZ zones. Despite a 5-year deal in 2001 regarding a temporary agreement between South Korea and China, the problem of illegal fishing is still present. The encroachment of South Korea waters by Chinese boats have caused major backlash, resulting in 4628 vessels being seized since the 2001 agreement.[5] In particular, Beijing and Seoul's agreement to be more proactive in managing this problem was futile concerning the level of enforcement and how it was done. Rising tensions were evident in December 2010, where two Chinese fishermen died after a South Korean Coast Guard vessel collided with their boat. In addition, South Korea's integrity in solving such illegal fishing disputes were further questioned in 2012 when a 44 year-old Chinese fishermen died after being hit by a rubber bullet that was fired by a South Korean Coast Guard[6].

Policies and procedures to ensure sustainable South-Korean fishing

In 2014, South Korea in its bid to increase fishing regulations sought cooperation among several agricultural and fishery organisations. The members of this cooperation included but are not limited to; Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries; the East Sea Fisheries Management Service and the National Fisheries Quality Management Service. Through the flow of information being shared among these agencies, it became clear that resources were much stronger and effective[7].

In addition, South Korea had implemented in 2005 a “Fish Stock Rebuilding Plan” to boost current levels of certain fish species and target an approximately level. The catch per unit effort(CPUE) of particular controlled species such as sandfish has increased from 0.44(2005) to 0.78(2007) within the East Sea.[8]

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative(USTR) announced in 2019 its intention for an environmental consultation with Korea as a means to manage fishing vessels. Its aim is to deter vessels from engaging in illegal fishing and hence monitor, regulate and control fishing in Korean-US waters[9]

Exclusive Economic Zone Disputes

South Korea has a prolonged maritime dispute with China after both states agreed to the conventional terms set out by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This convention sought out to regulate international waters and ensures that each state are able to claim a zone within 200 nautical miles its coast. It allowed the state to control and take charge of what is done within those waters. Whilst the ratification of the convention was settled in 1996 by both countries it occurred that their declared zones were overlapping across the Yellow Sea. It was argued by South Korea that for a fair and equitable agreement, the 'median line' principle was to determine the overlapping of zones. However, China disagreed, where they insisted that their population and as well as their coastal extent should be the determining factor in this dispute[6].

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Fishing Industry Of South Korea. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Fishing Industry Of South Korea.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
Fishing Industry Of South Korea. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
Fishing Industry Of South Korea [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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