The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Seoul, South Korea, office commemorated its 50th year of service May 15, 2023, with honored guests from the flour milling, baking, and logistics industries, U.S. government officials, U.S. wheat farmer leaders and colleagues.
Speakers during the event focused on the remarkable growth of the South Korean wheat foods supply system as well as the “ironclad” industrial and national partnership with the United States and USW.
Celebrating the Partnership
USW Country Director Dong-Chan (Channy) Bae kicked off the anniversary program by noting USW’s long-term commitment to helping the South Korean milling and baking industry advance and grow. He affirmed the success of the partnership, saying “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together – and together we have accomplished much.”
In his remarks, USW President Vince Peterson first looked back at the U.S.-South Korea wheat industry relationship. Referencing a 1984 article, Peterson said the author called out South Korea’s growth in U.S. wheat imports as an example of the very successful economic and security linkage between our two countries.
He said South Korea’s first commercial purchase of U.S. wheat in 1972 (following many years of donations under the PL-480 Food for Peace program) created the opportunity to open a U.S. wheat promotion office and more.
Since then, the South Korean milling and baking industry has seen “astounding growth until today when you import an average of 1.4 million metric tons of U.S. wheat and now export ramen products valued at more than $750 million,” Peterson said. “We thank you all and want you to know we remain dedicated to the partnership that helped fuel that growth.”
Chairman Won-Ki Ryu represented the Korea Flour Mills Industrial Association (KOFMIA) and said members of the organization greatly valued the relationship with U.S. farmers and USW.
“Together we have made major accomplishments that have significantly contributed to the advancement of flour milling in our country,” he said.
A Flagship Commodity
Mark Dries, Agricultural Minister Counselor, with USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, offered heartfelt congratulations to USW on its anniversary. He said milling wheat is now the fifth largest U.S. commodity imported by South Korea.
“We are very pleased to help celebrate this accomplishment. Wheat is one of the flagship export products to South Korea and has helped fuel the amazing innovations we see in bakery products here,” Dries said.
USW was fortunate to have three of its wheat farmer leaders participate in the event in Seoul: Past Chairman Darren Padget of Grass Valley, Oregon; Vice Chairman Michael Peters of Okarche, Oklahoma; and Secretary-Treasurer Clark Hamilton of Ririe, Idaho.
USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier also provided an overview of the global and U.S. wheat supply and demand situation. He showed that the now four-year downward trend in ending stocks will likely support world and U.S. wheat prices. He said while U.S. hard red winter wheat supplies will remain tight, the potential for more normal soft white and hard red spring (DNS) wheat crops for 2023 is good. At the same time, Spier said to expect continued volatility given the uncertainty of the Black Sea situation.
Thanks to Colleagues
USW wants to recognize the dedicated work of its Seoul-based colleagues Channy Bae, Country Director, Shin-Hak (David) Oh, Food & Bakery Technologist, and Jin Young Lee, Marketing and Program Coordinator. USW was also pleased that Dr. Won Bang Koh, who served as Country Director for more than 30 years, was able to participate in this special anniversary celebration.