Garlic row threatens Korean cell-phone exports

A dispute over garlic imports to South Korea from China that erupted last year once again threatens to hit exports of mobile telephones, according to reports from Seoul.

China has informed South Korea that it will block imports of mobile telephones if the country does not abide by an agreement to import 32,000 tons of Chinese garlic, according to the Yonhap news agency. China has complained that South Korea has fallen short of the agreement by 10,000 tons, said the report.

The agreement was signed last year after China blocked cell phone and polyethylene imports for more than a month in response to a hike in garlic import duties by South Korea from 30 to 315 percent.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the largest exporter of cellular telephones to China, lost more than US$2 million during last year’s export suspension.

Now the company is waiting to find out if the dispute will hit it again.

“We are waiting for a decision to be made and for the Chinese government to make an official announcement,” said Sung In Cho, a spokeswoman for Samsung Electronics.

Samsung estimates total exports of cell phones from South Korea to China will be about $50 million this year, up from $12 million last year, and that it has a market share of between 60 percent and 70 percent.

Samsung Electronics, in Seoul, can be contacted at +82-2-727-3355 or found online at

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