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Urea shortage threatens to paralyze South Korea's economy

Dearth of industrial material betrays nation's dependence on commodity imports

Trucks wait in a line to get urea at a service area in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Nov. 4. (Photo by Yonhap via Reuters) 

SEOUL -- A shortage of a little-known industrial material is threatening to cripple economic activity in South Korea, while sparking a conversation about the resource-poor country's reliance on outside sources for the items needed to maintain business as usual.

The item in question is a fluid called urea solution, which is used to cut emissions in diesel cars and to make agricultural fertilizer.

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