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Korea Benchmarks Asia for Food Globalization

2010/02/18 | 387 views | Permalink | Source

By Do Je-hae
Staff Reporter

Koreans are aiming for the kind of recognition and status that Japanese, Chinese or Thai food enjoy all over the world.

But many observers say the food globalization campaign needs more focus and coordination.

The three government agencies in charge of food, culture and tourism are loosely coordinating over the promotion, leaving foreigners unsure of which Web site to visit.

The main agency in charge of food globalization is the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

It established an inter-governmental committee to promote Korean cuisine last year, appointing first lady Kim Yoon-ok as its honorary chairwoman.

But its English-language Web site needs more comprehensive information. Some outdated pictures and statistics are still on the site.

A Web site for the Visit Korea campaign (Open the link) also contains a sketchy view on hansik.

The Japanese food ministry works in close cooperation with the Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad (JRO) for promoting Japanese foods and ingredients overseas.

A similar organization will be launched in March by the Korean food ministry in cooperation with experts in the private sector, a ministry official said.

PR experts say that Korea should perhaps take lessons from Japan, which has strategically promoted its cuisine overseas since the 1960s.

For instance, a series of online video advertisements on CNN have been effective in promoting the health benefits and taste of Japanese food as well as the credibility of their agricultural produce.

A well-organized Web site by the Japanese food ministry (Open the link) serves as a one-stop information gateway for foreigners.

There are currently 24,000 Japanese restaurants worldwide. Korea has around 10,000.

Korea has launched a "Global Hansik" campaign, initiating plans to create a 50 billion won fund and open Korean cooking classes at world-renowned culinary schools.

Under the program, the government plans to increase the number of Korean restaurants overseas to 40,000 by 2017 and promote the uniqueness and healthy nature of the food worldwide.

During a recent meeting with wives of Korean ambassadors, the first lady emphasized a "localization of Korean food" as a key strategy to disseminate hansik.

"Italian restaurants in Italy are run by Koreans with training in Italian cuisine. One of the quickest ways to globalize Korean food is to encourage local people to open as many Korean restaurants as possible", first lady Kim said.

Governmental involvement has been crucial to globalizing Japanese and Thai cuisine.

Koreans sees its food as a major tourist attraction but some surveys show different result.

A recent poll by the Korea Tourism Organization said that more than 40 percent of Chinese tourists in Korea last year found Korean food to be "tasteless".

Chinese visitors are one of the largest groups of foreign tourists in Korea after the Japanese. A total of 1.3 million Chinese visited Korea last year.

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