Halal awareness still low
After President Park’s recent visit to the Middle East, the term “halal food” became widespread in Korea. However, the concept of halal is still not clear to many people in Korea.
Most of the people still think that halal food means Turkish food, Middle Eastern food or Indian food because that is what they are used to seeing in Korea. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, 140 restaurants in the country serve halal food and most of them are either Turkish, Middle-Eastern or Indian.
Only about 50 Korean restaurants offer Halal food. Some Korean restaurants provide special grilled fish or braised seafood dishes, or offer vegetarian options such as temple cuisine. The Korea Muslim Association has certified only five Korean restaurants.
In reality, the numbers of Korean restaurants that serve halal food are more than that. However, due to a lack of knowledge about halal food, many Korean restaurants are not getting recognition despite serving halal food, or the food that Muslims are allowed to consume.
So let’s look at what exactly is Halal food. Halal simply means permitted or lawful. So when we are talking about halal food, it means any food that is permitted according to Islamic law. Foods that are not considered halal include pork or pork by-products, animals that were dead prior to slaughtering, animals not slaughtered properly, blood and blood by-products, carnivorous animals and birds of prey.
According to halal, all animals should be treated with respect and be taken care of before slaughter. When an animal is killed, its jugular vein is cut and the blood is allowed to drain from the animal, because Muslims are prohibited from consuming animal blood. Halal’s high sanitary standard for meat has made halal food popular among non-Muslims as well.
According to the guidelines above, it’s clear that food does not necessarily need to be Turkish or Middle Eastern to be considered halal. Korean food can also recognized as halal if it follows certain rules.
Some Dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken) restaurants in Korea use exported boneless chicken in their restaurants. Other Korean restaurants use exported beef and lamb. Some brands of boneless chicken and other meat coming from Brazil and Australia are actually halal.
Unfortunately, the truth is that many people, including restaurant owners in Korea, are not aware about this fact. Many Korean restaurants fail to attract Muslim customers despite actually serving halal meat. Lack of knowledge and awareness about halal are the main reasons behind it.
However, the situation has begun to change. President Park recently signed an agreement with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, to promote bilateral cooperation on the production and sale of halal food.
Under the agreement, the two nations will work together to create a credible halal certification system. The system has the added benefit of helping expand Korean food companies’ competitiveness in the Middle Eastern market.
A halal food research group has been initiated recently under Korea Food Research Institute. This newly opened group would provide consultation about halal food to local food industries, as well as conducting research and studies on the Middle East and its food market.
In order to attract Muslim tourists, the Korea tourism organization has taken some initiative. It is also trying to provide education to local restaurant owners about halal food through workshops. The main purpose of the workshops is to make them aware of halal food, as well as to open doors for new opportunities to attract many more Muslim tourists towards Korean halal food.
The day is not far when Korea will get the most out of halal food by exporting it to foreign markets and supplying it in the local market. At least the recent initiatives of current administration gives us that hope.
*The author is a student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Fahad Abdullah