Food in Korea is ridiculously cheap, especially for a "first world" country. Eating a massive BBQ dinner with endless kimchee and various other side dishes for 8 dollars, or a traditional twenty-dish Korean meal for 6, is stupendous value. Eating awesome, massive meals cheaply can be done in NE Asia.
So why is beef so much more expensive in Japan than in Korea? Why does it cost 8 dollars for a single plate of BBQ meat in a restaurant here when that could fund an entire meal in Korea? Isn't Korea a highly developed capitalist economy too? I saw middle school kids eating $25 pizzas at Pizza Hut in Pusan while we searched for the cheapest ribs we could find. If they can afford to pay that much, why aren't they made to?
The obvious answer would be that all these places use Korean beef, eliminating import costs and tariffs. Japanese cows are so well bred (before being slaughtered) on cereals and allegedly beer that it is far cheaper to sell US or Australian beef than the local counterpart, ruling this option out over here - a big factor in the Yoshinoya-US mad cow wars.
Yet, we went by bus from Pusan to Seoul and back, passing through cities and rural areas, and I don't recall seeing a single farm. Where are the cows coming from? Imports from China? Admittedly, there would be lower costs in overland shipping than overseas to Japan, but I don't think that could account for the huge gap in prices. And anyway, surely import taxes etc are similar for both countries?
Wrong. Ironically (but quite obviously when you think about it), the fact that Korea has no cows to sell means it can import them more cheaply. With no farmers to protect with anti-free trade tariffs, importing beef is far easier. Japan, on the other hand, feels it must protect its own farmers and so makes it more expensive to import, as is the case for rice. Just another day in the life of international economics.
Questions still to be answered about Korea, and my guesses.
1. What are the little white tickets that people take free from the subway office windows?
- Old people and little kids ride free?
2. Why were there 15 riot police waiting outside the subway when we came out at Anguk?
- Trying to find work for the kids who get drafted?
3. Why is pink so popular for guys, and why are there so many couples who wear EXACTLY THE SAME CLOTHES as each other? I really found it disturbing and even offensive, like the little picture of Mickey Mouse near Dan's house that is so bad it hurts.
- No clues. Help?