Could you briefly introduce yourself and your company?
ONGANE JAPAN CO., LTD. is an importer and active distributor of Korean agri-products in Osaka, Japan. We are trying to promote high quality Korean food culture to Japanese people. I’m Okamoto Akihiro, the CEO of ONGANE JAPAN CO., LTD.
What kinds of Korean agri-products are you importing?
ONGANE JAPAN is now mainly importing processed Korean foods such as seasoned seaweed, snacks, seasonings, and makgeolli (Korean rice wine). The import volume for seasoned seaweed per month averages 10,000 units, for instant noodles (ramen), 3,500 units, for traditional Korean tea, 3,000 bottles, for snacks, 2,000 bags, for seasonings, 1,300 units, and for makgeolli, it is 1,000 units. From two to three years ago, Japanese consumers have become more interested in Hanryu (Korean popular culture wave) and the volume of Korean agri-products we import has been increasing.
How do local people respond to the imported Korean agri-products?
Compared to the past, the number of Japanese consumers interested in Hanryu, like K-pop (Korean pop songs), is on a steady rise. So now many Japanese people buy Korean agri-products. Moreover, Japanese consumers have started to appreciate the Korean agri-products more and more for their taste, quality, and competitive pricing.
Have you experienced any problems in importing Korean agri-products? Any suggestions on what needs to be improved?
There were several instances of Japan imposing restrictions on importing Korean agri-foods because K-foods do not meet the Japanese market’s standards. For example, in some cases, there is no explanation in the local language or no list of ingredients. We understand that there is a difference between food regulations in Korea and Japan, but the Korean food exporters need to carefully check the Japanese food regulations in advance and prepare the agri-products for export to Japan. This will facilitate the fast and precise exports of K-food items to Japan.
Could you tell us about your future plans for importing Korean agri-products?
We will continue distributing Korean processed foods in the imported Japanese food market. As the popularity of Korean culture and Hansik (Korean cuisines) is spreading in Japan, the interest in Korean agri-products is rising consistently. ONGANE JAPAN will open its branch office in Seoul, Korea this July. We are going to approach various Korean food export companies through the new office and supply to Japanese consumers more Korean agri-products than we do now. In the long term, we plan to increase the amount of K-food items we’re dealing with to ten times the current amount.
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