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Thursday, February 22, 2024

South Korea loves pork and booze. It desires to be the following halal powerhouse | Meals

Seoul, South Korea – On the Malaysia Worldwide Halal Showcase final September, an unlikely sight caught the eye of many attendees.

Nestled among the many cubicles from Muslim-majority nations comparable to Indonesia and Kuwait, a kiosk representing pork-loving, hard-drinking South Korea beckoned guests to take a look at halal merchandise starting from seaweed laver to sanitary pads.

“The halal meals market is a blue ocean with nice potential for development,” Lee Yong Jik, the pinnacle of the meals export division at South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Meals and Rural Affairs, instructed Al Jazeera.

After taking the worlds of movie, TV and pop music by storm, South Korea is setting its sights on the worldwide halal business, which caters to the dietary guidelines and life-style necessities of some 1.8 billion Muslims around the globe.

Halal is just not simply related to historically homogenous South Korea, the place the Muslim neighborhood is estimated to quantity fewer than 200,000 individuals, or lower than 0.4 p.c of the inhabitants.

However surging demand for Korean delicacies and snacks in Southeast Asia, the place Korean popular culture has a loyal and rising fanbase, has turned Korean exporters onto a probably profitable alternative.

Muslims’ spending on halal meals alone reached $1.27 trillion in 2021 and is projected to succeed in $1.67 trillion by 2025, in keeping with analysis agency DinarStandard.

South Korea’s authorities has been eager to encourage companies to capitalise on the development, offering help starting from meals ingredient evaluation to subsidies for certification charges and promotional occasions to attach patrons and suppliers.

In 2015, then-President Park Geun-hye signed an settlement with the United Arab Emirates to advertise companies in new markets, together with halal meals.

In Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest metropolis, native authorities have spearheaded a “Halal Meals Activation Challenge” geared toward growing the variety of halal-certified firms within the metropolis tenfold and tripling exports to $200m by 2028.

Daegu Mayor Hong Joon-pyo lately described the halal market as a possibility that “can’t be ignored”.

Korean meals giants comparable to CJ CheilJedang have rolled out halal merchandise for his or her Muslim prospects [Ahn Young-joon/AP]

Lotte Meals, CJ CheilJedang, Daesang and Nongshim are among the many Korean meals giants to have rolled out halal-certified merchandise from kimchi to rice desserts.

Final yr, South Korea started exporting halal Korean native beef, referred to as hanwoo, for the primary time after receiving the go-ahead from Islamic affairs officers in Malaysia.

Samyang Meals, one among South Korea’s main meals producers, exports halal merchandise to 78 nations, together with its wildly widespread “Buldak Ramen” immediate noodles.

Samyang’s gross sales of halal merchandise reached $200m in 2022, accounting for about 45 p.c of whole exports. Gross sales in 2023 have been anticipated to succeed in about $270m.

Samyang has “persistently recognised the significance of the Muslim market” and has been actively working to advertise “Ok-food” globally, an organization spokesperson instructed Al Jazeera.

Other than the meals business, gamers within the so-called “Ok-beauty” sector have additionally cashed in on the development.

Cosmetics producer Cosmax, which has its headquarters in Seoul, has been producing halal merchandise at its amenities in Indonesia since 2016.

Regardless of the rising market, gaining halal certification can appear daunting for a lot of companies, particularly smaller companies.

“Step one is to find out in case your product is halal and whether it is, then assess whether or not you really want halal certification,” Saifullah Jo, chairman of the Korea Halal Affiliation (KOHAS), instructed Al Jazeera.

A South Korean nationwide who transformed to Islam, Jo based an Islamic consultancy agency for Korean firms and has translated a e book about halal into Korean.

“Simply because an organization requests certification, doesn’t imply we are going to grant it. Some individuals come to us looking for certification for issues that will technically be certifiable however it’s not at all times sensible,” mentioned Jo, whose organisation is one among South Korea’s 4 halal certification our bodies.

“We have to take into account the viewers and the real necessity for certification.”

KOHAS is one among South Korea’s 4 halal certification our bodies [Raphael Rashid/Al Jazeera]

Whereas alcohol, blood, pork and animals not correctly slaughtered within the identify of God, and meat from animals that died earlier than slaughter, are thought of haram, or prohibited, even seemingly innocuous gadgets like rice and mineral water could be candidates for halal certification.

“The complexities come up within the manufacturing processes. For instance, when rice is separated from husks within the milling course of, the equipment concerned could utilise lubrication and a few oils could include animal-derived elements,” Jo mentioned.

“This causes cross-contamination and presents a problem for making certain the ultimate product is halal-compliant.”

To make issues extra difficult, Indonesia, house to the world’s largest Muslim inhabitants, final yr introduced that meals firms would from October be required to acquire halal certification throughout the nation.

In November, the South Korean and Indonesian governments reached an settlement to exempt agricultural and meals merchandise from certification within the Southeast Asian nation as long as they’ve obtained the halal label from two of South Korea’s certifiers.

Whereas South Korea has made no secret of its ambitions to forge enterprise connections with the Muslim world, social attitudes in the direction of Muslim individuals and Islamic tradition are sometimes not so pleasant.

“Muslims in South Korea are considered at finest with apathy and, at worst, with worry,” Farrah Sheikh, an assistant professor at Keimyung College who specialises in Islam in South Korea, instructed Al Jazeera.

Sheikh mentioned some Koreans view halal merchandise as a conduit for Islam to “invade” Korean society.

In Daegu, the place officers are aggressively pursuing the Muslim market, plans to assemble a small mosque have encountered fierce opposition from residents and conservative Christian teams.

In August final yr, rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed “severe concern” to the South Korean authorities over its alleged failure to deal with the marketing campaign in opposition to the mosque, which included the show of pig heads exterior the development website and banners describing Islam as “an evil faith that kills individuals”.

After the federal government started selling the halal business in 2015, a number of Christian teams started warning concerning the potential “Islamification” of South Korea, an alleged inflow of Muslims and issues about safety dangers related to halal meals, main the federal government to situation an explanatory doc to dispel misinformation and rumours.

In 2016, the proposed development of an industrial zone for the manufacturing of halal-certified merchandise within the western metropolis of Iksan fell by way of as a consequence of opposition from Christian teams.

That very same yr, a model of potato chip made in Malaysia attracted controversy over halal certification on its packaging, which was later eliminated with out clarification.

In 2018, South Korea witnessed a wave of protests in opposition to the arrival of a number of hundred Muslim asylum seekers from Yemen. Throughout the identical yr, plans for a prayer room on the Winter Olympic Video games have been cancelled, following vehement protests by anti-Muslim campaigners.

Destructive attitudes in the direction of Muslims and Islam should not unusual in South Korea [Raphael Rashid/Al Jazeera]

For Muslims really residing in South Korea, halal merchandise could be troublesome to search out.

Whereas there are eating places providing halal meals, they’re primarily clustered in Seoul and different massive cities with substantial Muslim communities.

With little in the way in which of halal merchandise out there on grocery store cabinets, some Muslim residents have resorted to re-importing halal-certified “made in Korea” immediate noodles for his or her consumption.

Requested concerning the lack of halal merchandise in South Korea, Samyang Meals mentioned there was inadequate home demand to assist a market at current.

“Nevertheless, because the variety of Muslim guests and residents in Korea will increase, curiosity in halal merchandise is rising. Samyang Meals can be reviewing the marketability of promoting halal merchandise within the Korean market to make it extra handy for home Muslim shoppers to buy halal merchandise,” a spokesperson mentioned.

Sheikh, the Keimyung College professor, mentioned Korean firms couldn’t be blamed for eager to money in on a profitable market.

“Nevertheless, after we see Korean attitudes in the direction of Muslim refugees, or as we’ve got seen in Daegu, we’ve got a transparent discrepancy and an enormous social drawback,” he mentioned, including that South Korea should enhance its angle in the direction of Muslims if it desires to higher goal markets abroad.

Saifullah Jo of KOHAS mentioned he sees a shiny future for Korea’s halal business regardless of the challenges.

“ it from the Korean business’s standpoint, we’re conscious of the potential, and we should always transfer swiftly. One in all Korea’s key strengths is its means to adapt quickly,” he mentioned, including {that a} rising halal market might promote tolerance and understanding.

“Regardless of some detrimental minds, we’re pondering positively about going into this new market, and Koreans are studying as properly. It helps us open up culturally.”

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