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Global YaFF Talks About K-FoodSakamoto Tomoka, Tsuda College

Japan has been the biggest export market for Korean agriproducts for a long time. Various kinds of Korean agriproducts―such as kimchi, ginseng, bell pepper, seaweed, oysters, and instant noodles―are actively distributed in the country through large distributors, department stores, and convenience stores.

Although a continuous weak yen in recent years and a poor political climate between Japan and Korea have brought some difficulties into the bilateral trade, Japan still accounts for over 35% of Korean agriproduct exports.

In this issue, the status of Korean food in Japan is assessed by Sakamoto Tomoka who studies in Chuja Collage, located in Tokyo.

1. Tell us why you applied for YAFF (Young Agri-Food Fellowship).
Korea and Japan are geographically close neighbors. For a long time, there have been brisk economic, social, and cultural exchanges between the two countries, so Korean food is common in Japan and many Japanese make Hansik (Korean dishes) at home. If you type “Korean food” or “Hansik” in a Japanese web search engine, you can obtain a lot of information including recipes and pictures of the Japanese enjoying Hansik. I applied for YAFF to upload pictures of diverse and unique Korean dishes on my pages in social networks.

2. Japan is the biggest export market for Korean agriproducts. Can you buy Korean food products easily in Japan? What is the status of Korean food there?
Of course, you can get all kinds of Korean food products in Japan. They are sold in supermarkets, department stores, convenience stores, and traditional markets. The range is very wide: from seasoned seaweed, ramyeon, kimchi, Korean pancake powder and other products in pouches, to ginseng, snacks, beverages, and bell pepper. I can even get them at a school canteen.

When I was in middle school and high school, I had bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and beef), samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), jeon (Korean pan cake), kimchi, snacks, and other Korean dishes at a school cafeteria.

For the Japanese, Korean agriproducts are very common, something they buy quite frequently. For imported food, Korean agriproducts have the largest share in the Japanese market.

The secret of their popularity is that many Japanese people think Korean food is healthy. In fact, the most common Korean food products in Japan—kimchi, gochujang (red pepper paste), and samgyetang, for example—are all very healthy.

3. What Korean agriproducts are in the spotlight?
Korean melon (Kor. chamoe) is known in Japan as a unique fruit with beautiful yellow color, crunchy texture, and high sugar content. I really want to have it often but I cannot. That is because the demand for Korean melons is so high that it is hard to get them.

Among Korean dishes, cheese-dakgalbi (spicy chicken with cheese) is hot these days. Several years ago, on my trip to Korea, I went to a cheese-dakgalbi restaurant and was surprised because there were more Japanese customers than Korean. The popularity of the dish has been spreading in Japan recently through social networks, and it is loved by many Japanese.

AgraFood  leehw@agrinet.co.kr

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