Cyber chat: Food-lovers cook up an online home

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Cyber chat: Food-lovers cook up an online home

Do you find yourself wandering aimlessly along the street looking for a decent place to eat? And are you worried that finding a place that will please your palate will end up costing your life savings?

Some local residents of Goyang city in Gyeonggi province, searching for a better culinary life, created a gourmet association on the Internet. The Goyang Gourmet Association is an organization for people who take pleasure in discovering and eating fine foods.

A businessman, Han Gwang-hui, from Goyang, doesn't worry about what to eat for lunch. Unlike other people, he doesn't wander from place to place in his quest for chow either. Instead, he turns on his computer, goes to the association's Web site and gets recommendations from other members of the group.

Mun Sang-bin, a computer programmer, and four others created the association in October 2000 for the purpose of cutting down on the cost of finding foods that suit them. They thought that sharing information would eventually lead to better grub. Within the first two months, the association gained 20 members. Now it has close to 700.

Not only do the members assess restaurants' menus, but also the overall dining environment, service, sanitation, transportation and parking. The members are also clever about cutting down expenses. Rather than choose small, expensive restaurants, they concentrate on large, reasonably priced joints. "I feel happy when I introduce a place and the members like it," said Song Chang-ok, a member of the association.

The members gather offline on a regular basis, too. They select restaurants and meet every Thursday for lunch. While eating, they evaluate the dishes and decide what places deserve to be recommended on the association's computer bulletin board.

Once a month, the members choose the restaurant of the month and go to the place to check out the food.

Members also exchange home cooking recipes and tips. When a member is curious about any food-related issue, he can just leave a note online, and someone generally answers within a couple of hours.

The group's Web site lists multiple subassociations, including one exclusively for single people for whom cooking and food is a crucial element in meeting the right person. The association can be found at:

by Jeon Ick-jin

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