Conquering the food world

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Conquering the food world

In 1964, the U.S. newsmagazine Time asked how a country like Japan, where people ate raw fish, could host the Olympics.

But today, Japanese food including sashimi and sushi are regarded as gourmet cuisine around the globe. That is the result of persistent efforts by Japanese people, companies and their government to promote their food outside the country. But what do people think of Korean food? Most Korean restaurants overseas are small and their clientele tend to be Korean residents or visitors there.

Korean food is not well known abroad. Bulgogi and bibimbap, two native dishes, are usually an afterthought on Japanese or Chinese restaurant menus overseas.

On Oct. 17, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries declared this year as the start of a campaign to internationalize Korean cuisine. Although belated, this is a very good move.

The ministry also announced detailed plans for the project.

Our food is a significant part of our cultural heritage and can enhance our national brand value. It could even be a profitable strategic industry in the future.

Thailand’s government adopted the slogan “Kitchen of the World” in 2001 and has made tremendous efforts to promote Thai food around the world. The campaign sought to increase exports of agricultural and fishery products and handmade items, and to promote tourism to the country.

The global food industry is worth $4 trillion, much bigger than the automobile or IT industry. This means that Korean food can serve as a new growth engine.

In metropolitan cities such as New York, people are starting to recognize Korean food as being good for health. If we convince more non-Koreans to eat quality Korean food, Korea could become one of the world’s top five food superpowers after France, Italy, China and Japan.

The government must carry out measures consistently, standardizing recipes, providing subsidies to Korean restaurants overseas, issuing certifications and fostering Korean food education centers.

The government must work harder at promotion as well. The planned Web site showcasing recipes in English, Chinese and Japanese, slated for launch later this year, is a good start. But there should be more, for instance producing programs featuring foreign celebrity chefs cooking Korean food, or using local celebrities to promote our food outside the country.
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