Combining food and diplomacy isn’t an easy job

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Combining food and diplomacy isn’t an easy job


French Ambassador to Korea Jerome Pasquier, right, promotes the “Gout de France, Good France” festival during the year-end gathering of the 5.4 Club, held on Thursday at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jongno District, central Seoul. By Park Sang-moon

In last week’s year-end gathering of the 5.4 Club, honorary member Jerome Pasquier, the French ambassador to Seoul, said that in order for Korean cuisine to transcend borders and spread around the world, the country must promote many of its dishes through cultural influences.

“Korean restaurants are quite successful in France,” he said. But the chief problem of those establishments, he continued, was that they each serve a “limited list of dishes.”

“‘Le Grand Chef’ was very successful in France, and it has created a very positive image for diverse Korean [foodstuffs],” Pasquier said.

More promotion of Korean gastronomy through such cultural properties is needed, he said.

The 2007 Korean movie that Pasquier was referring to was about an epicure whipping up a variety of local dishes, from simple snacks like ramen and egg rolls to more challenging recipes like pufferfish and raw beef.

The 5.4 Club, launched in March 2013, is a subgroup of the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI), a nonprofit organization that promotes Korean culture overseas. The club offers customized tourism information for foreign visitors, especially high-profile figures.

The tourism initiative is led by Choi Jung-wha, the president of CICI, and her husband, Didier Beltoise, CEO of the consulting firm Cs.

On Thursday’s meeting held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jongno District, central Seoul, Pasquier took time to introduce the “Gout de France, Good France” festival, a project supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, which will be held on March 19 next year.

“People think French cuisine is too heavy and too complicated,” he said. “People don’t go to a French restaurant on a daily basis but rather go to a Korean or an Italian restaurant.”

The main purpose of the festival, he said, is to “show that French food can also be light and fancy, and enjoyed on a regular basis.”

Promotion of the food festival was followed by a discussion on how Korea can advertise its tastes as well.

Lee Jae-wook, a lawyer at the Yulchon law firm, suggested establishing a Korean food academy to invite international chefs and teach them how to cook Korean dishes so that they can return to their restaurants and add those items to their menus.

Chung Yuni, the CEO of Oliversweet, pointed out that many local chefs have expanded their business to overseas markets not to promote the authentic tastes of Korea but simply to establish a solid foothold and earn money. Authenticity can suffer.

“People in the Korean food business should have pride,” she said.

Matthew Cooper, general manager of the JW Marriott Hotel, said it’s time for Koreans to “do a better job on loving what we do here and stop trying to be America or France or Australia.”

“Last week, I had a chance to meet President Park Geun-hye, and she asked me how I liked Korea,” Cooper said. “I answered: ‘You have a beautiful country, but nobody knows about it.’”


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