By: Kim Se-jeong
The Earth is getting warmer. Scientists say if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature will increase by 4.7 degrees Celsius or more by 2100. The increase for the Korean Peninsula is expected to be 5.7 degrees, meaning the average temperature of the peninsula will be that of Jeju Island now.
Besides people feeling the heat, this will affect Koreans’ dining tables, according to the Rural Development Administration (RDA) and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), both publicly-funded research centers.
“Agriculture is directly affected by climate change,” researcher Moon Kyung-hwan at the RDA said. “The government needs to set up a realistic policy to secure a food supply for the people.”
Researchers say that the food people will eat in 2100 will be vastly different from what we eat today, particularly locally grown food.
A lot of locally grown fruits and vegetables will decline in production. Apples will be the hardest-hit among them. The warm temperature will push the farmland suitable for apple cultivation to the north, and by 2100, the fruit will grow only in a couple of remote places in mountainous regions in Gangwon Province, according to the RDA.
The production of grapes, persimmons and peaches, the most widely cultivated fruits in Korea, will not be affected as dramatically as apple crops, but their production is also expected to decline.
Rice will remain the staple for Korea in 2100, but people may see fewer rice farms around the country, not only because the temperature will rise but also because the climate will be drier. “The temperature may allow double cropping across Korea by 2100,” Moon said.
Kimchi’s future is not so bright either because the climate will become harder on cabbage cultivation. A large quantity of cabbage comes from Gangwon Province at the moment where it’s cooler than in other places, but it will no longer be cool enough then.
Instead, tropical and Mediterranean vegetables and fruits will replace those that are common now.
Mandarin oranges are an example. As a subtropical fruit, mandarin oranges are currently grown on Jeju Island and around the southern tip of the peninsula. They are expected to be grown in east coastal regions in 2100.
Since last year, the RDA has been testing 38 tropical plant species’ adaptability on Korean soil and climate, such as mangos, kiwis, figs, balsam apples, artichokes, papayas, avocados, olives, litchi and passion fruit.
According to the NFRDI, a temperature increase in oceans around the peninsula will push away pollack and cod ― this is already happening ― and make room for tuna, squid, mackerel and anchovy.
Warming is happening faster in the Yellow Sea than the East Sea, and more squid fishermen from the east coast will sail to the west coast for business, the institute said.
Some people say such changes will not mean much because importing agricultural products will still likely be an option. However, Moon said, “Relying on other countries for food can be very dangerous in terms of security. Even though some crops are grown in other countries and we can import them, we still need to have minimum production of our own food supply.”