South Korea’s Ambitious Plan to Revitalize Fishery Industry

The government’s various projects will expand the market value by US$10 billion by 2030.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has high hopes for the outcome of the plans. Minister Moon Sung-hyuk said that the plans will expand the market size of emerging fishing industries by US$10 billion (11.3 trillion won) by 2030, and increasing the average earnings of fishing households. The market size hovered around 3.3 trillion won in 2018.

In March 2021, the ministry said that the plans will help the self-sufficiency rate in the fishery sector, a ratio of domestic products to imported goods and services, reach 79 percent by 2025.

In 2020, the government initiated a New Deal Plan to revive the stagnant economy. The plan includes projects to make the fishery sector one of the key industries in the country, aiming to increase fishermen’s earnings and attract more young people to the fishing villages.

Fishing Village New Deal 300

One of the biggest projects is the Fishing Village New Deal 300.  The project, which has a US$2.6 billion budget, aims to improve the infrastructure of fishing villages; promote new business opportunities such as tourism; and invigorate the villages where a majority of the population comprised people age 60 or older.

To the fishing villages and ports that have been selected, the ministry provides financial and consulting support to promote the local businesses. The ministry also says that it will help to discover selling opportunities that villages and ports can specialize in, with the assistance of experts in design, leisure and architecture among others. 

Although the ministry plans to support only 300 fishing villages and ports until 2024, the applications they received outnumber that. For example, the government has a quota of 60 projects every year, but over 230 candidates handed in their applications this year.

An official says that beneficiaries of this project are showing positive responses so far.

“We don’t know how effective our plan has been (since the launch in 2019) but so far, we received positive feedback from the supported fishing villages and ports,” Kim Tae-kyung, section chief of the department of the fishing village and harbor invigoration at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries told Maritime Fairtrade.

“The ministry is planning to evaluate the plan’s outcome with various criteria, such as the number of new job opportunities, population change, the number of tourists, and so on. We will get to see how effective this plan is by the end of this year.” 

Boosting fishery exports

The ministry also has plans to boost the total export sale to reach US$2.5 billion this year, which was the record-high number achieved in 2019. The export sale dropped to US$2.3 billion last year, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the ministry, the fishery industry was particularly hit hard by the pandemic compared to other industries, as 74 percent of companies are small with not enough funds to tide them over.

To recover the record-high export sale of 2019, the government will introduce 700 products on its online shopping mall K-FISH and introduce Korean seafood product sections in various e-commerce operators, such as Amazon.

“The ministry will choose products that have high potentials to be popular to non-Korean customers,” an official of the ministry, who wished to remain annonymous, told Maritime Fairtrade.

“We will also establish English-speaking customer centers for those who may be interested in buying wholesale or seek a regular supply of products,” he added.

Expanding the Fisheries Direct Payment System

Another key project is enhancing the Fisheries Direct Payment System. The system, which is decreed by an Act that was passed at the National Assembly in 2014, is designed to give subsidy to complement the income of fishers with low catches and unfavorable living and working conditions, staying on islands or near the North Korean border.

To help more fishers, a new enhancement, starting from March 2021, also allow fishers between 65 and 75 years old who handed over their business to younger fishers to receive the subsidy as well. 

Moreover, fishers who comply with the total allowable catch quota, suspended period of fishing, and whose products had been certified by the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, are eligible for the payment as well.

This year’s budget for the system is US$51 million, which is a 125.9 percentage point increase since 2020. However, even with the expansion, some experts think the system will not be able to cover most of the fishers who are in need.

“The public can expect a higher benefit from the development in the fishery industry than with farming,” Shin Yong-min, professor at Pukyong National University, was quoted as saying by Hyundai Haeyang. 

“As the industry’s main operating area is the ocean, often perceived as common property, the government has been reluctant in assigning a bigger budget (to the system). We would have to see whether the system can be really helpful for fishers first but the budget will have to be expanded to have more people receive the benefit (in the long run).”

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