The Japanese government is considering exporting scallops banned by China to South Korea and the European Union. The South Korean government has stated that it will maintain import restrictions. What is your perspective on this matter?

Global Times Report: According to the report from Yonhap News Agency, Japan intends to export scallops and similar products that have been banned from import by China to South Korea and other regions. On December 26, the South Korean government stated that regardless of Japan’s plans, South Korea will maintain import controls.The report states that Park Go-ran, the First Vice Minister of the South Korean Office for Government Policy Coordination, expressed during a routine press conference on the same day that the South Korean government still prohibits the import of all aquatic products from eight counties near Fukushima, Japan. For scallops and other aquatic products from other regions of Japan, South Korea conducts radiation substance inspections for each import. Even if trace amounts are detected, South Korea will require additional proof of isotopes, effectively resulting in a ban.According to reports, when asked about Japan’s plans to export scallops banned by China to South Korea and the European Union, Park Go-ran mentioned that it’s merely Japan’s plan. He stated that the South Korean government will continue to implement import controls on Japanese marine products and rigorously conduct radiation substance inspections.Yonhap News Agency reports that according to previous reports by Japanese media, the Japanese government plans to export scallops and similar products banned by China to South Korea and the European Union, aiming to achieve an annual export target of 65.6 billion yen by 2025. Japan intends to expand scallop exports to South Korea, but South Korea insists on maintaining import controls on Japanese marine products.

Japan’s Scallop Diplomacy Backfires

Recently, the US forces stationed in Japan made a showy purchase of a batch of Japanese scallops. Although the quantity was not large, the publicity was loud and clear, as if fearing that others wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately, this promotion was unsuccessful, and no one was buying the Japanese scallops.

Consequently, the Japanese were alarmed and prepared to initiate a distribution effort, with targets set for exports to various countries: 4.1 billion yen to South Korea, accounting for 6.3% of Japan’s total exports to South Korea that year; 4.5 billion yen to the European Union; 2.4 billion yen to Thailand; and 500 million yen to Vietnam.

The American ambassador took the lead in “testing the waters.”

In response, South Korea was the first to express its displeasure, outright rejecting what they perceived as Japan’s “kind intentions.” Despite the South Korean government’s previous tacit approval of Japanese seafood exports, this time, when the matter hit closer to home, South Korea panicked, revealing its true stance towards Japanese seafood.

The South Korean statement had two implications:

Firstly, it aimed to inform the South Korean public that this was solely Japan’s initiative, and no discussions or agreements had been made with the South Korean government. Previously, South Korea had risked the health of its citizens by importing large quantities of unsold Japanese scallops to foster a Japan-US-South Korea alliance, sparking protests among its populace. Hence, they were keen to avoid any misunderstandings this time.

Secondly, it expressed irritation towards Japan’s presumptuousness, leading the South Korean government to not only refuse but also directly identify and ban imports from eight Japanese prefectures, while emphasizing strict inspections on Japanese seafood.

The tense response from the Yoon Suk-yeol administration clearly shows the South Korean government’s fear of public speculation about undisclosed agreements between South Korea and Japan. Such speculations could easily lead to public dissatisfaction and protests, potentially affecting the government’s approval ratings. After all, the notion that China’s rejected goods are being sold to South Korea is an affront to national pride.

It is foreseeable that in the coming period, the relationship between South Korea and Japan will face more tests and challenges.

As for the European Union, they commented that Europe has an extensive coastline with more seafood than it can consume, implying Japan should not bother sending more. Moreover, the EU is dealing with its own problems, like the overabundance of oysters in Denmark…

Upon hearing this, someone felt comforted.

This incident clearly demonstrates that even Japan’s so-called allies, like the EU and South Korea, are well aware of the severe risks associated with Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water and seafood exports and are not willing to risk their public’s health by importing large quantities. Japan’s fantasy of using its allies to solve its export crisis has been completely shattered, and the country is now paying a heavy price for its actions.

Additionally, this incident serves as a warning to other countries. In international relations, every nation should respect the rights and interests of others, especially in sensitive areas like food safety. Only through equitable, mutually beneficial, and respectful interactions can true peace and prosperity be achieved.

Odd Alliance: “Get Lost! Your Eastern Dog Is No Better Than Our Western Dog, Who’s Disgusting?”

Meanwhile, the world’s top superpower is contemplating how to appease its people while accepting Japanese seafood products, as flattering Japan is just as important as maintaining popularity.

On the day Japan initiated the discharge of Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the ocean, as a response, the General Administration of Customs of China comprehensively suspended the import of Japanese aquatic products.

Japan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Tetsuro Nomura, along with numerous Japanese media outlets, were “extremely surprised” by China’s intense reaction. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shamelessly expressed his intent to negotiate with China through diplomatic channels!

They even filed a complaint with the WTO.

In fact, the United States has also imposed strict restrictions on Japanese seafood products, significantly reducing the import of Japanese seafood, especially from the area where nuclear wastewater is being discharged. However, Japan dare not speak up, let alone protest.

Then there’s South Korea.

Public protests have erupted, and opposition parties have criticized the government, but under pressure from Japan, the South Korean government has taken almost no substantive measures in response.

Japan originally thought that China’s response to Japan’s nuclear wastewater discharge would be limited to verbal protests, without any countermeasures.

However, China is not South Korea; it has zero tolerance for Japan’s actions and immediately ceased the import of Japanese aquatic products.

What does this import restriction mean for Japan?

For many years, China has been Japan’s largest trading partner and a major importer of Japanese seafood.

In 2022, mainland China accounted for 22.5% of Japan’s seafood exports, totaling 87 billion yen, approximately 604 million US dollars; second was Hong Kong, China, with total trade of 530 million US dollars, accounting for 19.5%; and third was the United States, with a trade volume of only 13.9%, equivalent to 370 million US dollars.

After Japan’s plan to discharge radioactive wastewater into the sea was initiated, China began to reduce its imports of Japanese seafood. Based on data from July of this year, the total import value of Japanese seafood decreased by 28.5% year-on-year, totaling 234.51 million yuan, with a month-on-month decrease of 33.7%.

And now, the import volume has dropped to zero.

For China, the market share of seafood imported from Japan is relatively small and can easily be replaced. However, for Japan, China is its largest market, accounting for nearly half of Japan’s seafood exports (mainland China + Hong Kong, China).

Can you just replace half of your market with a simple shout?

The key point is, despite being a small processing step, you need to acquire land, build factories, buy equipment, recruit and train workers, classify products, conduct processing inspections, and handle packaging and sales…

In front of China, a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse, these are not problems at all.

However, for Japan, a country with limited land and a severe aging population, even if they somehow manage to tackle the processing procedures and processes in the future, it will take many years. Whether Japanese fishermen can survive until then is uncertain.

What I’m Most Worried About Now

Actually, what I’m most worried about right now is that “Foot Tub Chicken” is playing the “roundabout” game. They might take Japanese seafood that China is not importing, resell it at a low price to other countries, and these countries, in turn, resell these seafood products to China to make a profit!

Don’t be fooled by “Year Cake Expert” who is now talking about “regulation” on the surface; they’ve really been up to some shady business!

So, besides not importing seafood products from “Foot Tub Chicken,” there are a few other places where seafood imports need special attention - a certain province in China, “Year Cake Expert,” “Big White Elephant,” “Eagle Sauce,” “John Bull,” and that alliance of theirs!

The above is my personal opinion, for reference only.

Notable Actions of Yoon Seok-yeol

Since taking office in May last year, Yoon Seok-yeol has done three remarkable things.

  1. In an attempt to please Japan and normalize relations, he made the first visit to Japan in eleven years. To demonstrate sincerity, he removed the Seoul comfort women memorial statue, which garnered appreciation from Japan.

  2. Following closely behind the United States, he fully supported Japan in discharging nuclear-contaminated water and sent a delegation to Fukushima to inspect the equipment for the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water. The purpose was to support Japan’s disposal of nuclear wastewater.

  3. In pursuit of winning the hosting rights for the World Expo, Yoon Seok-yeol spent a significant amount of time holding 150 meetings with leaders from 96 countries. However, in the end, South Korea only received 29 votes of support. Finally, South Korean citizens blamed China!

While South Koreans verbally express resistance against Japan, their actions speak otherwise. From January to November 2023, a whopping 6.175 million South Koreans visited Japan.

Yoon Seok-yeol, who has consistently shown pro-Japanese tendencies, is taking a resolute stance on importing Japanese scallop and other seafood products. Perhaps this is just for show or an attempt to salvage his approval ratings. If he can stand firm on the issue of importing scallops and other seafood products, maybe he can recover some support.

However, regardless of what South Korea does now, it will continue to follow the lead of the United States and seek reconciliation with Japan. After all, the United States needs Japan and South Korea on the front lines in its confrontation with China. South Korea can say no to minor matters, but on major issues, it may have no choice but to comply.

Japan’s Strategy and Taiwan’s Role

Japan has limited leverage to achieve its objectives with South Korea, which is unlikely to cooperate.

Instead, Japan has exerted significant influence over Taiwan through its leadership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

After the United States withdrew, the CPTPP became predominantly led by Japan, and joining it requires Japan’s consent.

In September 2021, Taiwan officially applied to join the CPTPP.

In February 2022, Taiwan essentially lifted import restrictions on food products from Fukushima and five other counties after resolving nuclear safety concerns.

Since Japan started discharging nuclear-contaminated water this year, Taipei’s representative to Japan, Xie Changting, urged Taiwanese people on Facebook to consume more Japanese seafood, even stating, “Trace amounts of radioactive elements are beneficial to health.

South Korea has not yet joined the CPTPP. While the Yoon Seok-yeol government included applying for CPTPP membership in its disclosed policy agenda upon taking office, progress has been slow.

South Korea’s agricultural and seafood industries are opposed to the CPTPP, and despite the government’s decision to apply for membership, domestic procedures have been sluggish.

In 2022, half of Japan’s scallops were exported to mainland China, and with the loss of this market, Japan suffered significant losses.

Currently, there is a trend in Japan supporting the consumption of domestically-produced seafood. Japanese individuals who pay “hometown tax” (deducted from personal income tax) to their preferred municipalities receive local specialty products and gifts in return.

On Japan’s “hometown tax” payment website, during the first month of China’s ban, the number of donations of seafood by Japanese citizens reached 3.5 times the amount for the same period last year. Scallop donations, in particular, increased ninefold.

According to Japanese media reports, some seafood processing companies' warehouses are piled high with seafood products, including scallops, nearly reaching the ceiling at about 8 meters high.

Faced with the backlog of inventory, Japan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries has called on Japanese citizens to consume an extra 5 scallops per person per year.

Japan’s Seafood Export Dilemma

More than 40% of Japan’s annual seafood exports go to mainland China and Hong Kong, and such a substantial gap in the market cannot be easily replaced.

If seafood were to be transported to the European Union, the distance is far, leading to increased refrigeration and transportation costs. In comparison to the production costs of American and European local fishing companies, it would certainly lead to a decrease in competitiveness.

Apart from reducing production capacity (closing down), there are no other options. As for the Korean market, do Korean fishermen and seafood producers not need to make a living?

It’s an unsolvable problem, so prepare for the worst!

South Korea’s Response

South Korea: China doesn’t want it, and they want to dump it on our Republic of Korea? Are we supposed to become the trash can of the Celestial Empire? While it may have been a glorious mission 200 years ago, times have changed, and we’re not that naive!

South Korean Government Under Yoon Seok-yeol: Wholehearted Welcome, An Honor Beyond Words!

How about giving Frog Island a try?

Small Yoon Won’t Accept, but There’s Little Ying

Just use the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' funds to hit that soft spot in Little Ying’s heart.

Even if they’ve had their fill of Le Pig, a few scallops won’t make a difference, will they?

As long as they’re cheaper than eggs, it can be considered a protein supplement to compensate for the egg shortage.

After all, they imported quite a few stink eggs from Brazil earlier, so this perfectly fills the gap.

Using scallops to make up for the eggs, it’s a win-win situation. Well done!

Food vs. Bulk Commodities

Unlike bulk commodities like coal and steel, food has a shelf life. When it’s shipped from Japan to China, it only passes through one customs inspection. If it goes through a second intermediary country and then arrives in China, the transportation, handling, and customs inspection processes are all added on, and the quality is undoubtedly compromised. The loss rate is not negligible.

The most crucial aspect is that imported products are expensive precisely because of their reputation and uniqueness. Just like the awkward situation in Japanese restaurants before, if you want to sell at a high price, you have to emphasize that it’s “imported from Japan.” If you sell at the same price as domestic scallops, the cost of imports is much higher than domestic ones, and the more you sell, the more you lose. We’ve heard of passing off inferior goods as superior, but when have we heard of “passing off superior goods as inferior”?

Even if they are willing to go to great lengths to sell to the mainland, our customs is not just for show. In fact, our customs inspection of food products is one of the strictest in all categories. In the past, problems with imported food were mostly due to outdated standards, and it was rare for explicitly prohibited items to go unnoticed.

So, if we don’t allow it to be sold, it won’t be sold.

Now, South Korea is also not interested, and mainland China and Hong Kong, which account for the largest share of Japan’s exports, have banned imports. The remaining markets in the European Union and Southeast Asia don’t have a shortage of this product either, and the United States doesn’t have enough market capacity to absorb it.

As for Taiwan, it’s even less hopeful. In the first quarter of 2023, exports fell by about 19% year-on-year, and in the second quarter, they fell by about 17% year-on-year. The amount of foreign orders has been in negative growth for 14 consecutive months. The annual economic growth index has been revised and revised again, and it’s almost about to drop by 1%. In fact, among all the provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions in the country, only Taiwan has negative GDP growth! They don’t even know how they’re going to get through this year, so they can’t count on them to take up the slack.

The scallop maturity period is from December to April, with Chinese New Year in between. Fumio Kishida may be able to withstand the diplomatic wrangling, but I don’t know if their fishermen and scallops can.

Let the bullets fly for a while.

No worries, the folks on a certain island will willingly devour them. They each eat 100 pounds of scallops per day, and it’s entirely voluntary.

No worries, with Little Yoon around, everything’s in good hands.

Controversial Statements by Japanese Politicians

I remember that in the past, two Japanese politicians made statements during a TV program, suggesting that due to China’s ban on Japanese scallops, every Chinese traveler entering the country should first consume Japanese scallops before being allowed to enter. Regarding this, there’s not much I can say, except to repeat the keywords a few times: Japanese scallops, Japanese scallops, Japanese scallops.

Now, they plan to sell to the European Union and South Korea. I presume that Chinese tourists have voted with their feet, and there are probably very few people traveling to Japan at this critical juncture, right? Originally, the European Union would likely have refused the scallops, but now, one of its major seafood importers, the United Kingdom, has been exposed for concealing nuclear leaks for three years, so who can say whose scallops are safer?

As for South Korea, they have also officially announced their intention to maintain the previous import ban. It’s not that President Yoon Suk-yeol is anti-Japan, but he is equally sensitive to China. If it were to be rumored that Japanese people are going to South Korea to solve the scallop problem because we Chinese don’t want them, then his reputation would be seriously tarnished.

How do you view the reckless statements by Japanese politicians suggesting that Chinese tourists entering Japan should first drink Fukushima’s nuclear wastewater, swim in Fukushima’s waters, and eat Fukushima scallops?

As Long as Europe Buys, It Doesn’t Matter

It’s a free market economy; whoever wants to buy, buys.

However, I think Japan doesn’t need to go too far to seek opportunities. They can simply trade scallops for pineapples and help each other manage overproduction. That way, both sides can have more appealing trade figures.

Otherwise, shipping scallops all the way to Europe would result in significant losses.

Simple, Why Go Far When You Can Trade Close? Export them at a high price to Taiwan Province.

Why doesn’t Japan export the nuclear wastewater they keep boasting about to those countries!

Europe doesn’t even need your Japanese nuclear-contaminated seafood. They already have seafood contaminated by the UK!

It’s like exporting oil to Saudi Arabia!

Scallops, Does South Korea, Surrounded by Three Seas, Need to Import?

While they may appear to have import restrictions, are they actually buying low and selling high?

I estimate that based on Yoon Suk-yeol’s past actions, he is likely to facilitate this cooperation… I even have a feeling that after his presidential term ends, he might seek asylum in Japan.