Korea promotes culinary tourism

Tourists purchase apple pies made of apples and other local ingredients at a culinary experience center in Yesan, South Chungcheong Province, June 3, 2016. The ministry has been organizing food tour programs for both Koreans and non-Koreans to promote iconic dishes from each municipality and to bolster the consumption of agricultural products. / Courtesy of Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

 

Korea has stepped up efforts to foster culinary tourism as a tool to attract more foreign visitors by capitalizing on the increasing popularity of the nation's food among people from around the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has been organizing food tour programs for Koreans and non-Koreans to visit municipalities, and cook and taste their iconic dishes.

It has partnered with Afreeca TV and other broadcasters, which have been covering a series of culinary tours, cooking classes and other events to promote signature dishes and locally-grown agricultural products.

Korea's ongoing efforts to have "hansik," traditional cuisine, designated on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list have provided further momentum to turning its culinary culture into an appealing tourism asset.

"The government has been trying to combine food with tourism to encourage more Korean and non-Korean tourists to visit provincial areas," said Lee Chang-il, deputy director of the agriculture ministry's food industry promotion division.

"Each region has a unique culinary culture as they make a variety of dishes using locally-grown ingredients that taste so different from those of other areas. Food is very useful for attracting visitors."

In cooperation with tourism agencies, the ministry has developed K-Food Road, culinary tourism courses that provide a collection of seasonal food ingredients, local food and tourist attractions, Lee said.

"The program has gained increasing popularity among foreign residents and visitors as well as Koreans. We will expand the scope of K-Food Road to enable participants to experience culinary culture in more regions," he said.

For instance, the agriculture ministry organized a culinary tour to Yesan, South Chungcheon Province, where tourists learned about its dishes and indigenous products. They also sampled some representative dishes made of local ingredients and cooked them, while visiting popular tourist spots in the county.

In order to reach a broad audience, the ministry has formed a partnership with broadcasters to run TV programs showcasing tourist destinations and their culinary culture.

Afreeca TV, Korea's largest video streaming company, has been covering K-Food Road courses and posts video clips on its website for millions of its users to view them.

In addition, some of the firm's broadcast jockeys have been airing cooking classes at the Korean Food Cultural Center in Seoul, and food festivals nationwide to bolster the awareness of traditional cuisine.

"We are also cooperating with KBS and other broadcasters to promote events designed to foster iconic dishes and agricultural products in each region," the deputy director said.

"This year, Korea will host a number of international events nationwide. We will be there to offer foreign visitors opportunities to learn about and experience what Korean food is like."
 

Agriculture Vice Minister Lee Jun-won, left, poses with Afreeca TV CEO Seo Soo-kiel after signing an agreement at the government complex in Sejong, July 6, 2016, to jointly promote culinary tourism. Korea's largest video streaming company has been covering the ministry's monthly food tours and other events to foster signature dishes and agricultural products in each region. / Courtesy of Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

The ongoing campaign to list traditional food on the UNESCO list has increased the awareness of Korean food among foreigners, providing a boost for food tourism.

In 2013, kimchi and kimchi-making culture were listed as UNESCO heritages and the government has been trying to list all Korean cuisine since 2015.

"The hansik globalization campaign has helped fuel culinary tourism by improving Korea's image among foreign diners. We will continue to organize Korea Gourmet and other food festivals both at home and abroad," the deputy director said.

The ministry also plans to bolster education for Koreans, he said. "The government has been training a pool of cultural experts who will travel around the country to lecture on Korean cuisine. We will also spend money on consolidating information on traditional food and creating a comprehensive online archive."

This article is sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.