ASEAN cuisines delight Seoul audience

ASEAN cuisines delight Seoul audience
Korean chefs cook a Thai stir-fried dish made of crocodile meat and vegetables in front of the press at Coex, southern Seoul, Wednesday.

SEOUL - The ASEAN-Korea Center hosted the "ASEAN Trade Fair 2014" at Coex in southern Seoul from Nov. 12-15, a food fair that introduced an assortment of Southeast Asian delicacies to the Korean market.

Ambassadors, journalists and food industry experts joined the culinary parade accompanied by 100 food and beverage companies, distributors and buyers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

By cooperating with ASEAN's food industries, Philippines Ambassador Raul S. Hernandez said in a keynote speech, "Korea can benefit from a major food producer close to home that supplies quality local produce and groceries."

In celebrating ASEAN-Korea economic cooperation, fusion dishes combining Southeast Asian ingredients and Korean recipes were cooked in front of cameramen and journalists. Seminars on food production networks, the coffee and tea industries, and halal and healthy food industries in ASEAN were also held on the sidelines of the gastronomic presentations.

The event was a timely opportunity to raise awareness of the diverse culinary traditions that have grown out of the region, which has an abundance of food sources. Thanks to burgeoning trade and tourism between ASEAN and Korea, people from both sides have developed acquired tastes for local cuisines.

Out of a total of 14 million outbound Korean tourists in 2013, 32 per cent or 4.9 million chose ASEAN member countries, making it the most popular destination for Koreans. Korea received about 1.6 million visitors from ASEAN, the largest number after China and Japan. The unbridled popularity of Korean pop-culture products in the region also whetted the spending appetite of rising middle classes, hungry to try out spicy, sweet and sour Korean dishes.

The ASEAN-Korea Center, an international organisation established in 2009, has sponsored a diverse range of programs and events to bolster trade, tourism, people-to-people exchanges and cultural ties.

The centre held the "Korean Market Access Seminar on ASEAN Agricultural Products" in February this year as a platform to inform ASEAN companies about Korea's import regulations and quarantine procedures. It also hosted the "Trade Facilitation Seminar on the Food Industry between ASEAN and Korea" on Tuesday to instruct ASEAN businessmen on Korea's imported food regulations as well as strategies to utilize the free trade agreement framework.

The bilateral trade volume between ASEAN and Korea reached US$135.3 billion (S$169.2 billion) in 2013, securing ASEAN's economic weight as Korea's second-largest trade partner after China. The two sides aim to propel trade volumes to US$150 billion by 2015, and US$200 billion by 2020 through a bilateral free trade agreement that has been in force since June 2007.

The hallmark "ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit 2014" - under the motto "Building Trust, Bringing Happiness" - will be held at Busan Exhibition and Convention Center on Dec. 11 and 12.

Asia's ethnic foods and ingredients show, the International Food Exhibition, will be held in Manila, Philippines, from May 21-24 next year.

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