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By Chung Hwang-keunMinister of agriculture, food and rural affairsThe world has fallen deeply for Ko

[Contribution] Korean food captivates global palates

By Chung Hwang-keun

Minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs

The world has fallen deeply for Korean food. Ram-don, an instant noodle dish featured in the movie Parasite, was sensationally popular in 2019, and more recently, a brand of frozen kimbap has been selling out within just one month of release at a major grocery store in the United States.

The craze for Korean food does not end there. A Korean restaurant in New York was ranked first among all the restaurants in the US listed in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2022, and nine out of the 72 Michelin-starred restaurants in New York are Korean food restaurants.

The 2023 Overseas Hallyu Survey, which was conducted on local consumers in overseas countries, found that K-food was the most influential Hallyu brand, outranking K-pop and K-drama.

K-food's brand power has led to an increase in export volumes of Korean agri-food products. Amid a slowdown in international trade, where the World Trade Organization revised down the world trade growth forecast from 1.7 percent to 0.8 percent this year, the export volume of Korea’s agri-food products increased by 1.2 percent by October from the previous year.

This year's export volume is expected to reach a record high, surpassing last year’s $8.8 billion. This is a meaningful outcome that was made possible both by agri-food exporters’ efforts to expand their presence in the global market and by the government’s support in marketing strategies using Hallyu content and discovering various buyers.

K-food now has to go beyond being a temporary fad and settle in major global food markets including the US, the EU and Asia. Kimchi V freeze-dried kimchi blocks won an Innovation Award at SIAL Paris, an international food trade show, in 2022, and gained the attention of Europeans pursuing convenience as a food that can be cooked easily and conveniently.

The localization strategy of highlighting the appeal of K-food and tailoring the food to local consumers’ preferences has worked well in the global market. As part of the effort to localize K-food, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs plans to provide Korean agri-food exporters with information on consumption trends in the global market.

The government will also strengthen its support for food localization ranging from product development to branding.

In addition, the Ministry will make efforts to strengthen the global competitiveness of Korean food so that everyone in the world can enjoy not only K-food but also Korean food culture.

To this end, we will work harder to ensure that more Korean restaurants operating overseas gain Excellent Korean Restaurant certification, and play a representative role in promoting K-food to the world. We will also work together with top chefs at home and abroad to develop menus that may be loved by local consumers.

We also plan to enhance the international status of Korean food by hosting a prestigious international gastronomy event in Korea, and expand the consumer base of Korean food among tourists by linking K-food to Korean culture and tourism. Based on all of these plans, we will develop our Measures to Strengthen Global Competitiveness of the Korean Food Industry by the end of this year.

The literary scholar Umberto Eco said that the diversity of a people’s language and ethnicity is reflected in the food. K-food well represents the identity of Korea, and is full of diverse charm, ranging from young and energetic street food such as kimbap and tteokbokki to fine dining food with a taste drawing on a traditional culture thousands of years old. The K-food craze of the youth of the world is built on those charms. K-food will be on everyone’s table in the near future.

Chung Hwang-keun is South Korea's minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. The views expressed in this column are his own. – Ed.

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