Far East digest

Heavy-drinking Koreans seeing obesity skyrocket

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Heavy-drinking Koreans seeing obesity skyrocket
Obesity has emerged as one of South Korea’s biggest threats to health, according to a study released by the National Health Insurance Service last week. 

Looking at data reported during the course of this century, the report revealed that the number of obese Koreans with a body mass index of 30 or above amounted to 4.2% of the population in 2012—up from 2.5% 10 years previously. 

Based on this trend, one in 17 South Koreans will be obese by 2025, the report said.

Koreans spent KRW2.7tr ($2.3bn) treating obesity and obesity-related diseases in 2011, accounting for 5.8% of all medical bills that year. In 2007, the spend was just KRW1.9tr. By 2025, health officials predict some KRW7tr will be needed to treat obesity.

Excluding the obese, almost one-third of adult South Koreans were overweight in 2013—an increase of 60% in the past decade.

The NHIS last year formed a task force to combat obesity to stop non-communicable illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. 

Excessive alcohol intake, job-related stress and physical inactivity are among the main contributors to obesity. On average, South Koreans drink 13.7 shots of liquor per week, making them the heaviest drinkers in the world. 

Health ministry warns Taiwanese of high sugar in most popular drinks

Taiwan is the latest country to extol the benefits of sugar-free drinks after officials published research that highlighted massive sugar doses in some of the country’s favourite beverages. 

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare study, a typical serving of a glass of green tea with yakult, a popular mixer, contained the equivalent of 14 sugar cubes—exceeding by almost three times the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily sugar intake.

Bubble tea was another drink highlighted by the report as the highest calorie beverage it tested. Researchers found there to be an average of 653 calories and 616.5 grams of sugar per serving.

The study also reported that 89% of junior students and 85% of seniors would drink at least one sugary drink a week—with an average of six servings per junior and eight for seniors. Adults would on average consume seven servings per week.

In new guidelines announced by the Health Promotion Administration, consumers have been advised to read labels carefully, keep track of their sugar and calorie intakes, replace flavoured milk with low-fat alternatives and drink water instead of sweetened beverages.

The health ministry had earlier ordered vendors to begin labelling the sugar content of beverages, with a deadline set for last month. 

Japan calls on WTO to investigate Korean post-Fukushima trade barriers

Japan has petitioned the World Trade Organisation to implement a panel to decide on trade barriers implemented by South Korea in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. 

The barriers include import bans and testing requirements for Japanese food which the country claims show no signs of being eased.

The move follows a complaint lodged with the WTO in May alleging that South Korea was violating a trade agreement, and that Seoul had failed to justify its measures.

"We held two days of bilateral discussions on this on June 24 and 25, but there was no expression from the Korean side of when the restrictions might be lifted​," Japan's Agriculture Ministry said.

"Since more than 60 days have passed since the complaint was lodged, and there is no sign of when the restrictions might be repealed, we have asked today, in accordance with WTO rules, for the establishment of a panel​.”

South Korea in May expressed regret at Japan's move and said then that the ban on some Japanese seafood was necessary and reflected safety concerns.

Average annual exports of seafood by Japan to South Korea have stood at just US$96m from 2012-14. This is less than half the average of US$213m from 2006-10, according to data from the International Trade Centre.

Other countries, including the United States and Australia, had already lifted or eased Fukushima-related restrictions.

Nissha takes over European labelling leader

Japanese multinational Nissha Printing has taken over AR Metallizing, a leader in the production of metallised paper for labels, from the British investment company HIG Capital. 

Bart Devos, chief executive of AR Metallizing, said: “Given its solid position in developing innovative printing technologies, Nissha is the ideal partner of AR Metallizing. This is a sterling opportunity for both companies to capitalise on each other’s specific technical and commercial knowledge. With this new shareholder, the stable and promising future of AR Metallizing is secured for the coming years.”

AR Metallizing's core market is labelling, with special focus on beer labels. It generates a turnover of €110m through the supply of its products to international customers from three production sites in Belgium, Italy and the United States.

Belgian newspaper De Tijd recently listed it as one of the 50 most innovative companies in Belgium for its recyclable premium packaging. 

AR Metallizing is valued at €136 million. The takeover will have no impact on its 284 employees, while Devos and other key executives will stay on. 

Nissin ice cream available in soy sauce and curry ramen flavours

Nissin has revealed new ramen flavoured ice cream in mini Cup Noodle containers at the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama, Japan.


The ice creams are available in soy sauce and curry flavours, and come with with savoury freeze-dried protein toppings.

The soy sauce ramen flavour comes topped with beef, shrimp, green onions, and egg, while the curry flavour comes with beef, onion, carrot, and potato.

The desserts are only available at the museum, which celebrates Nissin’s founder, Momofuku Ando, who invented instant noodles.

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