Agricultural Affairs Office (AAO)
Ronald P. Verdonk/Agricultural Minister-Counselor
The Agricultural Affairs Office (AAO) of the American Embassy in Seoul represents the interests of American agriculture and agribusiness in the Republic of Korea. Activities of the office include market research and analysis, market development, and market access. AAO helps identify—and works to reduce—foreign trade barriers and other practices and policies that hinder U.S. agricultural exports.
Minister-Counselor Verdonk speaks at 2019 Korea Intl. Culinary Competition
May 17, 2019
Ron Verdonk provided congratulatory remarks at the “2019 Korea International Culinary Competition” held at the aT Center in Seoul on May 17, 2019. Among groups of participants, the competition involved hundreds of up-and-coming chefs. In his remarks, he emphasized the fact that the U.S. Agriculture provides inputs that Korean cooks need, from food grade soybeans that make their way to the Korean dinner table whether in bean paste soup with tofu, to a range of other ingredients including dairy products like whey.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Korea Visit
May 14 – 16, 2019
USDA Secretary Perdue visited Korea from May 14-16 to reinforce the positive relationship between Korea and the United States and to advocate for more U.S. agricultural exports. His trip included events such as Cotton Day 2019, a discussion with agricultural students at Seoul National University, and bilateral meetings at the Blue House, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
FAS Seoul Hosts 2019 Seoul Fuel Ethanol Conference
April 30, 2019
On April 30, the Agricultural Affairs Office at U.S. Embassy Seoul, the U.S. Grains Council and the Korea Biofuels Forum jointly hosted the 2019 Fuel Ethanol Conference in Seoul. It was the fourth and largest iteration of the conference with more than 125 attendees and focused on the air quality benefits of including ethanol as a component of gasoline transportation fuel. Korean panelists supported the phased adoption of biofuels, but said more outreach was needed to convince policy makers and address public concerns. U.S., Brazilian, and German representatives urged Korea to quickly adopt an E10 mandate to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
Presentations can be accessed here:
- Fuel Ethanol Policy and Supply & Demand in Neighboring Countries – Mr. Brian Healy
- The Effect of Fuel Ethanol Blend on Fine Particulate Matters, Life Value and GHG Emission in Seoul – Dr. Steffen Mueller
- The Future Prospect of Automotive Powertrain & New Challenge for an Internal Combustion Engine – Dr. Ki Hyung Lee
- Economic Benefits of a Fuel Ethanol Blend from Oil Refinery Point of View (Octane Economics) – Mr. Jody Hall
- Background and Future Outlook of Japan’s ETBE Policy – Dr. Shinya Yokoyama
Embassy Garden Project
April 10, 2019
On a rainy April 10, 2019 morning, FAS Seoul and the US Embassy in Korea hosted around 150 participants for Urban Agriculture Day at the US Ambassador’s residence, bringing together children, NGOs, Korean government and US government officials. The highlight was a newly planted vegetable and flower garden that has come to fruition through a partnership primarily between FAS Seoul and the Seoul Metropolitan Government. While the garden will be regularly tended to by a local gardening NGO, students from local elementary schools will be periodically visiting the site and assisting with the gardening to gain a better understanding how vegetables come to be. There were several notable VIPs at the event, including the Mayor of Seoul, the Korean Minister of Agriculture, the Charge D’Affaires of the US Embassy, and the US Ambassador’s wife. As the US Ambassador’s wife noted, in this case it will be true that, “April showers bring May flowers.”
2019 Korea International Beer Expo
March 21-23, 2019
In partnership with the Brewers Association (BA), ATO Seoul presented the ‘Great American Craft Beer Showcase’ booth at the Korea International Beer Expo 2019. A total of 36 American craft breweries exhibited in the booth, including 6 new-to-market breweries, offering an opportunity for the Korean craft beer trade and opinion leaders to experience the quality, value, and diversity of premium beer that the American craft beer industry has to offer. The three days of exhibition saw over 2000 visitors to the booth. Additionally, the ‘Great American Craft Beer Seminar’ that BA presented during the show provided 45 Korean beer industry professionals with up-to-date information about the American craft beer industry. An evaluation survey right after the show indicated that the activity generated over 200 serious contacts with target Korean buyers and would bring $250,000 of new sales to the breweries that are already shipping to Korea within the next 12 months. In addition, two of the new-to-market breweries reportedly identified Korean import distribution partners during the show, which is likely to generate $40,000 of initial sales in 2019.
Agricultural Trade Mission travels to South Korea
November 5-8, 2018
Ken Isley, administer of the Foreign Agricultural Service, completed his first Agriculture Trade Mission Nov. 5-8. He led a team of 49 U.S. agribusinesses and farm organizations to South Korea.
More than 700 business-to-business meetings were held during the trip.
“The only metrics that exceed that number are the number of business cards exchanged and number of pictures that have been taken,” Isley said.
As a result of the mission, millions in sales were made between the two countries.
“The sales total is approximately $3 million for short-term sales to be delivered in the next one to two months,” he said. “An estimated $30 million in sales are expected longer term, over a 12-month period. It’s hard to gauge the value of the longer term relationships that are being established.”
Also while in Korea, Administrator Isley met with Korean government officials to discuss market access issues of mutual interest.
Nov 1-2, 2018
The Korea Biosafety Clearing House (KBCH) hosted its second Asia Forum on November 1 and 2. The event promoted information sharing among not only Asian countries but also other developed countries regarding genome editing policy. KBCH invited speakers from USA, EU, Japan, Australia, and other Asian countries. FAS/USDA and the State Department supported the participation of Ibrahim Shaqir, Associate Deputy Administrator, USDA APHIS as the USG speaker. Attendees included representatives from Asian countries, Korean regulators, developers, and professors. As Korea and other Asian countries have not developed policies on genome edited products, the forum was a good opportunity for the USG to share its views on the regulation of gene editing and other products created through the use of novel breeding techniques.
2018 DPRK Roundtable
September 13, 2018
Our Agricultural Affairs Office hosted its 7th annual roundtable on DPRK agriculture on September 13. Speakers from Korean universities, research institutions, and WFP in Pyongyang gave their insights into the agricultural and forestry situation ㅡ past, present, and future ㅡ in the DPRK.
Presentations can be accessed here:
FAS Seoul Hosts 2018 Bio-ethanol Conference
June 26, 2018
On June 26, the Agricultural Affairs Office at U.S. Embassy Seoul hosted the 2018 Bio-ethanol Conference. It was the third and largest iteration of this workshop and focused on the air quality benefits of including ethanol as a component of gasoline transportation fuel. Despite acknowledged air quality issues in urban centers, Korea currently bans the use of ethanol as a transportation fuel. The government is nearing completion of a feasibility study looking into potential blend ratios. Conference speakers provided information on the U.S. experience with ethanol and also updated attendees on Korea and China’s bio-fuels situation.
Presentations can be accessed here:
Agricultural Alumni Reception
May 25, 2015
On May 25th, the FAS Agricultural Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul hosted an Ag Alumni reception for Koreans who worked in or studied food and agriculture-related fields in the United States. The event was held at the historic Habib House, the formal name of the Ambassador’s residence, a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy in downtown Seoul. The venue was idyllic and in superb Korean late spring weather. Discussions at the networking-type reception ranged from shared experiences at famous U.S. ag schools, to current advances in agricultural science, to the state of play in ag trade negotiations, and all to the accompaniment of U.S.-origin locally prepared food. In addition to the comradery generated by the event and the re-connections it led to, the USDA Seoul office hopes to employ this ag alumni group as a sounding board for trade policy and bilateral agricultural collaboration ideas. We hope to grow this group and certainly weren’t able to turn up every former ag alum. If you’re reading this post and can think of former (or current!) Korean colleagues with this type of background, please pass along our contact information and ask them to get in touch. Korea and the United States have strong cultural ties and agriculture has been and will continue to be a big part of it.
Chodang Beancurd Company Visit
April 17, 2018
Staff from FAS Seoul accompanied members of the U.S. Soybean Export Council to Gangneung Chodang Dubu, a tofu manufacturer in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on April 17, 2018. The name Chodang literally means a traditional Korean countryside house made of grass, meaning a comfort place to live in. Gangneung Chodang Dubu, founded in 1983, is one of the major branded tofu manufacturers in Korea and its president served as Chairman of the Korea Federation of Tofu Cooperatives , a national organization representing the tofu industry, until 2016. The company is unique in that it uses only seawater as a coagulant rather than using chemicals such as magnesium chloride. In order to process its tofu, Chodang Dubu sources food grade soybeans from around the world, including the United States. Korea imported around 252,000 MT of food grade soybeans in 2017 and 196,000 MT of that was supplied from the United States. The tofu industry prefers U.S. food grade soybeans because of their quality and reliable supply. Korea imports food grade soybeans both through bilateral FTA agreements, such as the Korea-U.S. FTA (KORUS), and also through an autonomous tariff rate quota (TRQ).
Bohyang Tea Plantation Visit
April 12, 2018
On April 12, 2018, Ag Affairs Office staff visited Bohyang Tea plantation in Boseong, Jeollanam-do to learn about growing, preparing, and drinking tea in Korea. The Bohyang tea plantation is a fourth generation family farm that specializes in organic tea and making tea infused with gold minerals. Korea produced around 4,000 MT of tea in 2016 on about 2,900 ha of land. The industry has maintained its size in recent years. Although small farmers are aging and having difficulty finding the next generation of tea farmers to pass on their operations to, the large farmers are expanding their farm sizes. The team learned many lessons about tea and the etiquette of drinking tea, but the most important lesson was to enjoy the experience!
U.S. Meat Export Federation Korea Visit
March 12, 2018
The Embassy’s Agricultural Affairs Office recently supported a visit by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a non-profit representing U.S. beef, pork, and lamb exporters. Korea is a top market for U.S. beef and U.S. MEF’s new president, a former farm boy from the U.S. state of Iowa, Dan Halstrom, wanted to come to Korea to see how beef, pork, and lamb are bought and sold in Korea, and how U.S. origin red meat fits into the mix. Among other stops, the team visited several hypermarkets, a Korean beef processing company offering U.S., Australian, and Hanwoo beef products, and a unique online meat wholesaling platform called Meatbox. This relatively new startup aims to reorganize traditional methods of supplying international and domestic meat to small and medium sized restaurants and butcher shops. Here is a photo of the team in action, helping to promote U.S. – Korean business relationships.
2018 PyeongChang Food Summit
February 12, 2018
On February 12, 2018, U.S. Embassy Charge D’Affaires Marc Knapper gave congratulatory remarks at the PyeongChang Food Summit hosted by the Korean Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The event featured a keynote speech by Rasmus Egendal Deputy Director of the Government Partnership Division of the Word Food Programme, who gave a speech titled, “Towards a Zero Hunger World.” Other speakers discussed future prospects of the food industry (including the psychological approach to future food and policies of future food resources and its impact on food tourism) and the key to commercialization of future food resources (including the key to popularization of future food in the city and the future of hospitality and tourism education and its relations to future food resources). Topics ranged from vertical agriculture and hydroponics to insects as a source of protein. Participants were further enlightened on the subject by receiving samples of insect protein based foods.
February 05-07, 2018
In the early February, the Embassy’s Ag Office traveled to Busan to meet with stakeholders in the ag processing industries concentrated there. Since the late 1980s, Treksta has been turning imported U.S. hides and skins into high-tech footwear. Samjin has been producing fish cakes in Busan since the 1950s. Alaskan Pollack are a major ingredient of several Samin products. Last year, processors like Treksta and Samjin used $742 million worth of U.S. hides, skins, and fishery products to support Korean jobs and meet their customers’ needs.
2018 U.S. Corn Quality and Corn Outlook
January 25, 2018
The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) hosted a seminar on 2018 U.S. Corn Quality and Corn Outlook for an audience of 114 people on January 25. Introductions were given by Ron Verdonk, the Minister Counselor for Agriculture at the U.S. Embassy, Cary Sifferath, the Senior Director of USGC, and Yanghee Lee, the Chairman of the Korea Feed Association. Participants heard an explanation of the 2017/18 U.S. corn harvest quality and outlook. The corn crop was in good condition (with 66% of the crop rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’). Favorable conditions during the growing season contributed to the 2017 harvest being the highest yielding corn crop on record. Additionally, 95.1% of 2017 harvest samples were graded number 2 or better, which is a higher percentage than in 2016 and in 2015. Next, participants were treated to the perspectives of three U.S. corn farmers, who explained how their family operations fared during the 2017 growing season, gave insight into conservation on the farm, and presented a clear picture of how their individual farming operations look. Finally, the group heard more about the 2017 U.S. corn import and quality control system, learning how corn is transported, stored, contracted, and graded in the United States. The seminar was well-received, with thoughtful questions coming from the audience.
Celebration of The Grains Council’s 45th year
November 28, 2017
FAS Seoul and the U.S. Grains Council Korea office celebrated the Grains Council’s 45th year of operations in South Korea on November 28, 2017. The luncheon reception was attended by Korean grain and feed industry processors, manufacturers, and associations. Also in attendance were U.S. Grains Council (USGC) leadership, including President and CEO Tom Sleight and Chairman Deb Keller, as well as leadership from the National Corn Growers Association. Korea has long been one of the most important markets for U.S. corn farmers. In marketing year 2017, they shipped $850 million of corn that Korean processors transformed into food ingredients, cooking oil, sugar, animal feed, and other end products. The USGC Korea office also works to link Korean businesses with U.S. producers of other coarse grains like barley and sorghum, as well as ethanol and the feed co-product known as DDGS. The USGC and NCA officers, several of whom are farm owner/operators, also toured various feed and meat processing facilities in South Korea.
USGC Crop Quality Seminar
November 10, 2017
Embassy Agricultural Minister-Counselor Ron Verdonk delivers opening remarks at a conference on factors affecting animal feed milling profitability organized by the U.S. Feed Grains Council (USGC) in Seoul in November 10, 2017. The USGC maintains an office in Korea to interact with Korean grain merchandisers, animal feed millers, Korean farmers and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as well as other Government of Korea agencies to provide information and organize training about feed grain use in animal production. The Office of Agricultural Affairs of which Mr. Verdonk is the head works to facilitate increased market access for U.S. agricultural commodities and food products in Korea and strives to stay abreast of developments in these dynamic sectors in Korea.
International Agriculture Exhibition
October 26-27, 2017
From October 26-27, 2017, the Office of Ag Affairs joined a group of colleagues from around the world at the Jeollanamdo International Agriculture Exhibition in Naju. Jeollanamdo is a major agricultural production region in Korea; and the Exhibition was widely attended. The trip gave the new Minister Counselor, Ron Verdonk, an opportunity to learn about Korean agriculture and to view new and exciting products being sold in the market today. Mr. Verdonk was also given the chance to try delicious beef-bone soup, a Jeollanamdo specialty!
FAS hosts 6th Annual Roundtable on Agriculture on the DPRK
September 6, 2017
The Office of Agricultural Affairs hosted the 6th Annual Roundtable on Agriculture on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Seoul on September 6, 2016. This forum brought together participants for a discussion highlighting the agricultural economy and food security in the DPRK. This event gave participants new insights and up-to-date intelligence on the DPRK agricultural situation and food markets. Speakers featured:
Dr. So Young Kim, Senior Reporter at the Farmers Newspaper, speaking about marketization of the DPRK agricultural sector;
Dr. Dath Mita, Senior Production Analyst at USDA, discussing crop monitoring and production forecasting for the DPRK;
Mr. Praveen Agrawal, World Food Programme Country Director and Representative in Pyongyang, focusing on food security, nutrition, and food assistance in the DPRK; and
Dr. Hyun-Mook Cho, Senior Researcher at the Korean Rural Development Agency, sharing successes and lessons learned during a potato project completed in the DPRK.
There was also a general discussion moderated by Dr. Tae Jin Kwon, Director of the Center for North Korea and Northeast Asian Studies, GS&J. Among other topics, speakers answered questions about the difficulty of working with data for the DPRK, the Public Distribution System, and the success of the potato project.
Approximately 66 participants included key experts and observers of DPRK’s agricultural situation and policy from academic, government, and non-governmental organizations within Korea, as well as USDA and other USG officials.