Expo revels in food in its natural form

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Expo revels in food in its natural form

ULJIN, North Gyeongsang province ― Known for its crabs and large mushrooms, Uljin is hosting the 2005 Eco-Agriculture/Organic Food Expo, which runs to Aug. 15.
Organic food, which is produced without any chemicals, became popular in Korea after the “well-being” trend took off a few years ago. Organic products here are priced 10 to 30 percent higher than their non-organic counterparts.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the Korean retail market for organic agricultural products is estimated at $1 billion, with a growth rate of 30 percent per year.
Most domestic organic products include fresh vegetables, fruits and rice, but most processed organic products, such as tofu and baby food, are imported. Currently, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry issues certificates to organic food manufacturers, which raises consumer awareness about naturally produced products.
The expo in Uljin provides information to farmers on organic agriculture and tips to consumers on how to pick the best organic products.
At the opening last Friday, tens of thousands came to see displays of organic food by domestic and foreign manufacturers, of organic farming methods and technology and many other attractions.
Lawmakers representing North Gyeongsang province, Agriculture Minister Park Hong-su and Gyeongsang province Governor Lee Eui-geun and foreign dignitaries of the International Federation of Agricultural Products Movement attended the opening ceremony, which included a traditional samulnori show and folk performances by international groups like Brazil’s Samba Dance.
Kim Yong-soo, Uljin County’s chief and chairman of the expo’s organizing committee, welcomed visitors by declaring, “We are at the turning point of seeing eco-farming becoming a bio-industry. We must seek sustainable development where the producer and consumer will transform their thinking about eco-friendly life.”
The expo isn’t just for politicians, the crowd on the opening day included families and couples.
Park Jong-dae and his wife, Kim Mi-rae, came all the way from Jeongseon, Gangwon province. They eat only organic food.
“This expo is bound to be useful to farming folks. They can learn so much from visiting the expo here,” he said.
“The only downside of the expo is that the dishes offered at the Food Court are really weak,” said Ms. Kim. “There’s nothing to eat here, and what’s more the food tastes bad.”
If the food disappoints, Uljin, which means “full of treasures,” won’t, with its scenic mountains, thick forests and tranquil beaches. In this setting, visitors can learn and experience “the organic life”.
Upon entering the Expo grounds, the Main Exhibition area is on the left, which showcases information about eco-farming, the role of bees and certain insects that help the farming process, how ducks swimming in rice paddies can help turn over earth and also get rid of noxious insects.
Videos show how pesticides and farming chemicals used in agricultural products can be harmful to humans and describe the types of organic farming methods used today.
The Eco-Agriculture Exhibition Hall displays historic cases of agricultural farming during the Joseon Dynasty era, a display of Italian millet that is grown organically and other examples of organic products.
In the Eco City Hall, various cities in Gyeongsang province showcase their local products in separate booths, such as peaches from Yeongduk, melon from Seongsan, strawberry jam from Goryeong, red pepper powder from Cheongsong, and octopi from Ulleung island.
The Korea Hall displays products of organic food manufacturers in Korea, such as pomegranate liquid and farming equipment such as organic pesticide or insect repellent devices, which visitors can view and purchase on the spot.
The Overseas Hall displays organic products from foreign manufacturers, such as organic Darjeeling tea from India, natural batik fabric from Indonesia and organic cheese from the Netherlands.
Anne van Egmond, the export manager of Kaptein, an organic dairy manufacturer from Holland said, “[Organic food] is a growing market in Europe. In the Netherlands, it accounts for 4 percent of total supermarket revenue. As living standards improve, people get more conscious about what they eat, and organic products are bound to increase in value.”
In the Special Crops Hall, agricultural products that were produced by special methods, like vegetables and fruit that were grown by using deep seawater, are on display.
Other “well-being” products include numerous types of mushrooms (shiitake, oyster and mastutake mushrooms), turnips, cauliflowers as well as display of herbs, and medicinal plants used in home remedies in the old days.
The Marine Life Exhibition Hall showcases diverse aquatic species such as neon tetra, blue lobster and clownfish among others. Also shampoos and bathing products made from deep sea minerals are on display.
The Natural Monuments and Traditional Cultural Artifacts Hall exhibits stuffed animals such as the sea lion, woodpeckers and other rare local animals that are designated by the government as natural living monuments.
The Things of the World Hall includes products such as jewelry, ceramics and clothing from all over the world, such as incense from India.
Apart from the exhibition halls, other attractions include an organic farm, a pond where visitors can try out freshwater fishing, a tea pavilion, wild flower garden, a bio-hiking trail, wild ecological area and eco-camping site.
The Traditional Cultural Experience area showcases how to make traditional Korean paper, hanji, traditional pottery and traditional dyeing methods. Visitors can also try out the swings made from straw.

by Choi Jie-ho

What to do and where to go

Uljin is famous for its large crabs and songi mushrooms.
Every April, the Uljin Large Crab Festival allows visitors to taste king crab, octopus and other seafood.
Uljin’s crabs are famous for their size and taste. They used to be a culinary favorite at royal palaces during the Joseon Dynasty.

Because Uljin is by the sea, there are numerous beaches for those seeking relaxation and fun during the summer vacation.
Mangyang Beach is the closest to downtown Uljin, but other beaches include Hujeong, Bongpyeong, Nagok, Giseong and Gusang, all along the coast bordering the East Sea. The beaches are relatively tranquil and small, unlike those near Busan and Jeju.

Famous hot springs, such as Deokgu and Baekam, are less than an hour away from Uljin.

Other major attractions include Seongryu Cave, a limestone cave in the county of Uljin that dates back 250 million years. There are five lakes within the cave (472 meters in height), and the cave is designated as Natural Monument No. 155 by the government.
Bulyeong Temple, which was built during the Silla Dynasty, is also in the Bulyeong Valley, a ravine that is famous for its beauty.

An express bus from Seoul to Uljin takes 4.5 hours; by private car, it takes three to four hours.
For more information, call (054) 785-6393 or visit tour.uljin.go.kr (Korean only).
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