‘Regional treasures’: South Korea and Japan step up fight against country-of-origin food fraud

2022.02.09

Both the South Korean and Japanese governments have moved to reinforce the robustness of their food authenticity systems against Geographical Indication (GI) and country-of-origin adulteration via initiatives including a new operational council and strict crackdowns.

The East Asian countries are amongst the most active in the Asia Pacific region in terms of registering local food items for GI protection – Both countries have well over 100 GI-registered products, with more expected to be approved this year.

Japan recently announced that it would be setting up a specialised Japan GI Protection Council in order to oversee the promotion and development of GI products in the country, to be chaired by All Japan Food Association chairman Yoshihiro Murata and comprising 91 GI-registered organisations in addition to the local food industry, related organisations and local governments as members.

A separate statement from MAFF highlighted that the council will provide a clear, organised platform for related organisations to collaborate in ‘raising awareness of the GI system, expanding sales channels for all GI products, and take measures against [any] infringement, regardless of product type or region’​.

In South Korea, GI protection falls under the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and is considered a ‘neighbouring concept’ to a traditional trademark.

Being a ‘neighbouring concept’ does not mean that the government is taking GIs any less seriously than regular trademark protection though, having specifically included GIs as part of trademark-related registration since 2005 in order to mandate adherence by firms.

Amongst items that are GI-protected in South Korea include Sangju dried persimmons, Jeongan chestnuts and Hanwoo beef whereas Japan’s GI-protected list includes Kobe beef, Yubari melons, Miyagi salmon and more.

Even without the establishment of a specific GI protection council, South Korea has been very strict in its monitoring on the related country-of-origin authenticity under the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service, particularly in the past few years, employing both digital monitoring and site checks to remove adulterated products from the market.

The service’s most recent crackdown on origin labelling took place in January 2022 ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, when such foods tend to be in high demand.

Read more here.

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