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Like father, like daugher, like mother, like daughter

Posted March. 30, 2013 07:24,   


Kwangjuyo, Korea`s top ceramics brand, has a unique business portfolio. It has embarked the liquor and Korean food markets based on ceramics. The company makes the high-end soju brand Hwayo and operates Bichaena, a Korean restaurant, at the entrance of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, in Hannam-dong, Seoul. For the past 15 years, Kwangjuyo Chairman Cho Tae-kwon has held a Hwayo dinner party for prominent figures from home and abroad to serve them Korean food. In 2007, he invited gourmets to Napa Valley, a wine-growing area in Northern California, to serve dinner and introduce Korean food. He has spent around 60 billion won (54 million U.S. dollars) to promote Korean food. This cannot be explained only from a business perspective.

"While making ceramics, I felt that food and liquor should go with it. Korean culture means dishes, liquor, Korean food and something extra. I wanted to reconfigure traditional Korean food culture to the level of Korea`s national status and globalize it," he said. Japanese food has gained a firm foothold on the global stage in just 30 years by attaching numerous stories to it. As a result, Japanese culture has also gained wide global recognition. Koreans have much to do to globalize their unique cuisine. The most difficult part is to change the stereotype that "Korean food is mass-produced food."

Top-class hotels are avoiding running Korean restaurants, which need to play the role of advance guard for Korean food`s globalization. Among 315 hotels rated first class or above across the country, just 134 have Korean restaurants. The situation at 21 super deluxe hotels is worse, with just Lotte Hotel (Mugunghwa), the Sheraton Grand Walkerhill (Ondal, Myeongwolgwan), Renaissance Seoul (Sabiru) and Mayfield (Nakwon, Bongraeheon) having Korean food restaurants among them. A source at a super deluxe hotel said, "It takes longer to cook Korean food and Korean food needs more side dishes compared to Japanese and Chinese food. While materials and labor costs are high, profitability is low due to fewer customers."

Bichaena opened after Leeum Samsung Museum Director Hong Ra-hee, who shared the vision of globalizing Korean food, told the Kwangjuyo chairman, "Why not start here?" His second daughter, Cho Hui-gyeong, who studied cooking and business management in the U.S., took charge of opening and is now operating the restaurant. This is "like father, like daughter." Hotel Shilla will reopen its Korean restaurant Seorabeol in August. Opened in 1979 along with the hotel, the restaurant was closed in 2005 after Shilla management judged that it could not maintain top quality at all restaurants. The idea for the reopening came from Hong`s daughter Lee Bu-jin, who is the hotel`s president. This is "like mother, like daughter."

Editorial Writer Heo Seung-ho (tigera@donga.com)