Chamoe (Korean melon) is characterized by its vivid yellow color, sweet taste, and crispiness. These small yellow melons, though technically belonging to the category of vegetables, have 1,500 years of history and are produced only in East Asia—Korea, Japan, and China. Korea started exporting chamoe in the early 1990s, to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Now, the fruit is available in many Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries, in addition to Japan, the largest importer of Korean melons.
Seongju Chamoe Export Center with More than 20 Years of Experience in Melon Cultivation
The most famous chamoe producing area in Korea is Seongju County. It is the first place that comes to Koreans’ minds when they think of Korean melon. Seongju produces approximately 160,000 tons of chamoe per year on average, which is equivalent to 70% of the total national production of the fruit. Until the early 2000s, chamoe had been harvested in Seongju mostly between May and August, but now it is produced for most of the year, from January to September, thanks to automated facilities and smart farms.
The extension of the harvesting period has enabled longer export seasons. Currently, two organizations, Seongju Chamoe Export Center and Seongju Wolhang Nonghyup, are leading the export of Seongju chamoe. The Export Center ships about 150 tons of the fruit overseas every year and is making inroads into new markets with its own brands, Yellow-K and Jangwon Insam Chamoe. Kim Cheol-gon, CEO of Seongju Chamoe Export Center, introduces his company as an agricultural cooperative specializing in chamoe exports and having over 20 member farms with two decades of experience in chamoe cultivation. He takes pride in the Export Center achieving recognition with overseas buyers as an exporter of functional melons.
Using Liquid Ginseng Fertilizer and Other Green Farming Techniques, Offering Products in Small Packages
Unlike many other chamoe farms, the Export Center applies organic farming methods using a naturally fermented bean extract fertilizer and a liquid ginseng fertilizer. Recently, it also started using a liquid fertilizer containing selenium, a nutrient believed to have antioxidant effects and strengthen immunity. According to Kim, the Export Center has transformed Seongju chamoe into a functional fruit by reflecting the preferences of health-conscious consumers. He adds, “We applied for a patent for our unique cultivation method using an eco-friendly liquid ginseng fertilizer.”
To appeal to overseas consumers, the Export Center also introduced a special sorting process and small packaging system. Chamoe with sugar content less than 12 brix are sorted out and removed. Food safety is ensured through notoriously thorough inspections for residual agricultural chemicals in Japan. The melons are offered in packages of 1.5 kg, 5 kg, and 10 kg, depending on the demands of the distribution system in the importing country. In addition, the Export Center introduced a small packaging system last year, where chamoe are packed individually, making it even more convenient for foreign consumers to enjoy Seongju melons.
Cultivating Foreign Markets, Actively Exporting to Japan, Hong Kong, and Dubai
Thanks to the differentiated marketing strategy, the Export Center is steadily exporting chamoe to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, and other markets. The biggest importers are large grocery chains in Japan, wholesale fruit markets in Hong Kong, and large supermarkets in Singapore.
The company aims to break into China and Vietnam in the near future. Negotiations on export quarantine procedures for Korean melons with both countries are underway, and the fruit is thought to have good potential there given the economic growth rate of the two countries and similar market characteristics to those in the rest of East Asia. Kim says, “Chinese tourists who visited a Seongju chamoe promotion hall on Jeju Island gave favorable responses to the taste and quality of the fruit. We will continue our efforts to open new markets for sweet and crispy Seongju melons."
Seongju Chamoe Export Center
Tel: +82-54-933-7652, +82-11-805-2500 (Lim Jae-won, Deputy Manager)
* Additional Info I: Interesting Facts about Chamoe
- Chamoe contains an ample amount of minerals and vitamin C and is good for fighting fatigue.
- According to Nature, a renowned science journal, chamoe contains plenty of cucurbitacin which is believed to prevent cancer cells from propagation and is beneficial to liver detoxification.
- The Codex Alimentarius Commission recognized chamoe as a variety of melon, and in May 2016, the fruit was assigned the official international name of “Korean melon.”
* Additional Info II: A Better and Healthy Way to Enjoy Chamoe
- It is better for the health to eat chamoe unpeeled because the peel abounds with cucurbitacin which is good for cancer prevention. Furthermore, eating chamoe unpeeled doubles the crispiness.
- It is possible to make chamoe into a juice by grinding it. The addition of milk will make the juice taste smoother and facilitate the absorption of nutrients from the fruit.
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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