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[News Focus] Korea’s agricultural products to tap America after Paris

SEJONG -- South Korea is sparing no efforts to promote its agricultural products globally, including Korean traditional dishes, beverages and alcoholic drinks.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, “K-food Fair” held in Paris earlier this month drew wide attention from European consumers and retailers.

“Twenty-one Korean producers participated in the fair in France and signed export contracts worth $17 million (19.6 billion won),” said a ministry spokesman. “For the on-the-spot buyers, there were 40 companies from 10 countries across the European continent.”

Among popular items were makgeolli (alcoholic drink from fermented rice), ginseng, kimchi, kimchijeon (kimchi pancake) and tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake), according to the ministry and Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp., which both organized the event.

A beverage made from omija -- a berry produced in regions such as Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang Province, and Jangsu, North Jeolla Province -- was also popular among buyers.
Promoters serve a brand of soju, a Korean traditional liquor made from dilution of spirits, to visitors to an international wine and food festival, held in New York. (Bohae)
Promoters serve a brand of soju, a Korean traditional liquor made from dilution of spirits, to visitors to an international wine and food festival, held in New York. (Bohae)

The European market had been regarded as an unexplored field for Korean farmers, but awareness of Korean cuisine has risen rapidly over the past few years on the back of exporters’ participation in international food fairs, said the Agriculture Ministry spokesman.

He added that K-pop has also been linked to interest in Korean food among young generations worldwide.

The next destination of the “K-food Fair” slated for July 9-10 is Los Angeles, targeting North American buyers.

About 35 Korean farming companies and 90 buyers are set to attend the event, to be held at the InterContinental Hotel in Wilshire Boulevard, according to the ministry.

Participants will include Geumsan Ginseng Cooperative, Hwangsooyeon Traditional Food, Organic Vegan, Woorisool and Good Morning Korea.

Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. said the upcoming event will help connect Korean exporters with buyers from the US, Canada and South America.

Held over two days, the fair will offer demonstrations, consultations and networking opportunities. Companies will be matched based on their needs, creating opportunities for future business, according to the state-run agency.

“As LA has the largest number of Korean residents -- about 400,000 -- in the US and many ethnic restaurants, a certain portion of locals there are already accustomed to Korean food,” a ministry official said, adding that the event would seek to introduce high-quality fresh products from Korea.

He also highlighted the recent success of a TV program, in which a famous Korean chef served residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco Korean-style Chinese food from a food truck.

“Jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce) and tangsuyuk (pork or beef with sour and sweet sauce) showed the growth potential of Korean food overseas, like kimchi, bulgogi (marinated beef) and galbi (steamed ribs) did,” he said.
(Graphic by Heo Tae-seong/The Korea Herald)
(Graphic by Heo Tae-seong/The Korea Herald)

“K-food Fair” will also be held in Jakarta from July 25-28, Tokyo from Sept. 4-5, Thailand from Sept 26-29 and Ho Chi Minh from Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. estimated that about 250 companies across the nine provinces in Korea are likely to participate in the fairs this year.

Despite the continued deficit in the nation’s trade of agricultural products, local farming households have been striving to make inroads into the overseas market.

Last year, North Jeolla Province ranked top among the nation’s nine province in terms of agricultural export growth, rising 41 percent on-year to $310.8 million, according to the Korea Customs Service.

Provincial officials said livestock products led North Jeolla Province’s outbound shipments, posting 154 percent growth, followed by processed agricultural products with 125.3 percent and fresh produce with 7 percent.

South Chungcheong Province saw total farming exports increase 13.6 percent on-year to $423.4 million in 2018. In particular, growth was led by pears, bringing in $27.66 million, up 33 percent on-year.

The US market was the largest export destination for pears harvested in the province, purchasing $13.58 million worth of pears, followed by Taiwan at $6.84 million and Vietnam at $6.28 million.

By Kim Yon-se (