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[Opinion] Rock Bed-Stored Rice

Posted December. 23, 2005 03:00,   


Party-goods shops for added fun at parties, returned-goods shops that have gained popularity among those willing to buy returned goods for lower prices, and midday theater performances aimed at housewives are examples of “differentiated business models” in today’s era of unbridled competition where only those businesses with unique value and service can survive and triumph.

These niche businesses are enjoying a heyday despite the current economic recession. Niche markets are often referred to as “good fishing places that are known to only a few people.”

The rice market is no exception. One good example is “rock bed-stored rice” developed by Na Jun-sun, president of PN Rice Inc. The rice was named “rock bed-stored rice” because it is stored in a discarded tunnel in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province. Na won a right to use the tunnel for free after a two-year fight with Gimhae City.

Because the interior of the tunnel is cool all year around just like an underground cave, rice that is stored there can maintain its freshness for a long time.

Na buys environmentally-friendly rice and washes it with ionized water before storing it inside the tunnel. The rice is then sold in its own brand name. The popularity of this rice has soared and has posted 25 billion won in sales this year alone.

Another niche rice product is high-quality rice coated with healthy nutrients, such as fiber-enhanced rice, green tea rice, calcium-enhanced rice, and brown rice with embryo buds. Moreover, cakes, cookies, bread, and ice cream made with rice have also found their way to market. These products, which are made with leftover rice and which are both healthy and tasty, benefit not only farmers, but also companies and consumers.

It has been a month since the bill lifting rice import restrictions was approved in the National Assembly, but a number of farmers and agriculture groups are still protesting against this bill. They even flew to Hong Kong to protest during the WTO ministerial meetings, and some are now held in custody of the local police.

Such protests alone will not solve any problems. We have to admit that this matter must be looked at from the perspective of the national interest. This is why Na’s claim that “we have to focus on improving quality and on coming up with new ideas so that consumers are naturally encouraged to buy Korean rice. Then we will be able to solve many problems,” sounds convincing.

Song Young-eon, Editorial Writer, youngeon@donga.com