The prices of food and beverages like beef and coffee in Seoul are among the highest in the world despite the number of free trade agreements (FTAs) South Korea has signed with other countries, a consumer report showed Monday.
In a survey of 13 major cities throughout the world, Seoul was found to have one of the highest prices for 35 food and drink items, according to the report by local civic group Consumer Korea.
The prices of 42 different commodities and foodstuffs were studied in June and October of last year. The cities surveyed in the report include New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, London, Milan, Toronto, Sydney, Madrid, Amsterdam and Taipei.
The local Starbucks coffee chains in Seoul, for example, sell the most expensive tall-sized cup of Americano in the world at 4,100 won (US$3.78), exceeding the price of same coffee in Paris, Beijing, Tokyo and Amsterdam, the report showed. Seoul’s price is 65.5 percent higher than the cheapest cup of the Americano sold in New York.
Chilean wine was also more expensive in Seoul. The premium red wine from Chile’s Montes Alpha series cost 43,000 won in the South Korean capital, nearly 10 percent more than in Taipei, which trailed at 39,410 won, according to the report.
Whether they are from home or overseas, basic commodities such as meats were also among the high-priced items, as local stores sold beef sirloins from home-bred cows at 106,000 won, surpassing the 90,931 won in Tokyo and the 58,526 won in Beijing. Imported beef sirloins in Seoul was the third most expensive compared with those in other cities.
Nine different types of imported fruits, including bananas, oranges and cherries, also commanded a larger price in Seoul than in most cities elsewhere, the report showed.
Although consumers here expect to have to pay less for imported foods and beverages as a result of the 15 bilateral free trade agreements South Korea has forged with its trade partners, the report said prices have yet to see the downward effect due to the complex distribution system here that often hikes consumer prices.
The price of cherries shipped in from the United States, for instance, has gone down 19 percent since the South Korea-U.S. FTA went into effect in 2012, but the price for consumers has jumped 42.4 percent.
“The country needs to improve its distribution structure so that the actual consumers can benefit from the price cuts made possible from the FTA and lower trade barriers,” an official from Consumer Korea said.