South Korea Urges China to Resolve Urea Customs Clearance Amid Export Delays

China has reportedly blocked the export of urea to South Korea without giving any reason.
South Korea Urges China to Resolve Urea Customs Clearance Amid Export Delays
The flags of China and South Korea are displayed side-by-side during the Closing Ceremony at Haixinsha Square on day fifteen of the 16th Asian Games Guangzhou 2010 in Guangzhou, China, on Nov. 27, 2010. (Feng Li/Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

South Korea has called on China to promptly resolve a urea customs clearance issue after local companies reported experiencing delays in receiving supplies of the material from China owing to customs procedures.

China recently blocked the export of urea—a type of nitrogen used as fertilizer in agriculture and to curb diesel and industrial emissions—to South Korea without giving any reason, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The measure has led the South Korean government to convene an emergency meeting involving its industry, finance, and foreign ministries to address the effects on South Korean businesses.

“We are convening a related emergency meeting and looking into the situation, but the Chinese government has not given its official position,” a South Korean Finance Ministry official told Yonhap on Dec. 3.

“We are checking and monitoring our urea solution inventory.”

The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy stated that the country has only a three-month stock of urea, with imports coming from Vietnam and Japan.

The ministry noted that it was working to avert urea shortages by boosting reserves for vehicle use and supporting the industry to diversify import channels.

Ministry spokesperson Choi Nam-ho said the Chinese communist regime has taken such measures to balance domestic supply and demand and not because of “political background.”

“We have confirmed customs delays, and there was no political background but economic factors, mainly due to tight urea supplies within China,” the spokesperson told reporters on Dec. 4.

South Korean Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun met with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Dec. 4 and called on the Chinese regime to immediately resolve the customs issue.

China’s Foreign Ministry hasn’t issued any statement about the issue as of press time.

The delays come after China’s nitrogen fertilizer association urged the government to prioritize supplies for domestic use after prices hit a two-year high and as Indian industry figures in September flagged delays at Chinese ports.

The issue has raised concern about a repeat of a supply crunch in 2021, when China’s regime effectively halted exports of urea amid a trade dispute with Australia.

South Korea imports more than 90 percent of its urea supply from China. Diesel cars account for about 40 percent of registered vehicles in the country.

In late 2021, China’s export requirement aimed at increasing domestic supplies triggered panic buying among South Korean drivers of diesel cars and trucks who are required to use urea solutions to cut emissions.

South Korea resorted to government rations while trying to secure alternative suppliers. It even scrambled a military tanker plane to Australia to airlift 27,000 liters of urea solution amid a dire shortage at the time.

In 2015, South Korea made it mandatory for diesel cars to use urea solutions to control emissions, a move that affected 40 percent of registered vehicles in 2021. Diesel vehicles made since 2015 were required to be fitted with selective catalytic reduction systems that rely on injections of urea solution to scrub nitrogen oxide from diesel exhaust fumes.

Reuters contributed to this report.