[Photo by Yonhap]
Grocery prices in Seoul, South Korea, are more than double those in New York, the United States, according to the results of a comparison by Maeil Business Newspaper of 10 essential grocery items at two major supermarkets in both cities, Emart A branch in Seoul and Walmart B branch in New York, on Monday.
The 10 essential grocery items include bread, eggs, apples, bananas, chicken, beef sirloin, milk, onions, Coca-Cola, and a popular snack. In Seoul, the total cost of purchasing these 10 items was 22,643 won ($17.57), which was 7,119 won, or 46 percent more than the 15,524 won ($11.97) cost in New York, when based on the lowest prices at offline stores. In Korea, the same product may be cheaper online, but in the United States, it is common to set the prices the same for both online and offline at the same store. Consideration was also given to the fact that groceries are tax-free in New York State.
Even though both Seoul and New York supermarkets had some sales events, the overall prices in Seoul were higher than in New York. The biggest price difference was for the chicken, which was 2.1 times more expensive in Korea than in the United States. Bread was 1.7 times more expensive in Seoul than in New York, followed by milk, which was 1.6 times more expensive, and eggs, which were 1.5 times more expensive. Of the 10 staples, snacks were the only item that was cheaper in Seoul than in New York. The selected shrimp-flavored snack Saeukkang was priced at half the level of the U.S. Doritos on a unit weight basis.
This price difference becomes even more pronounced, given the income gap between the two countries. According to the Bank of Korea, Korea’s nominal gross national income (GNI) per capita is $35,990, half that of the United States’ $70,800. In terms of the 10-item basket of essential items, the cost of living in Seoul is three times higher than in New York.
While there is a wide range of prices for essential groceries, the high prices at the lower end of the spectrum are bound to put pressure on households.
“Cities with high prices for basic foodstuffs sharply lower the quality of life for residents,” Sung Tae-yoon, a professor of economics at Yonsei University, said. “With no spare money, the income gap will further widen in the long run, leading to a vicious cycle that will eventually reduce the city’s international competitiveness.”
By Yoon Won-sup, Park Hong-ju, and Yoon Yeon-hae
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]