Geumsan black ginseng going global

신태섭 기자l승인2019.04.19

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▲ CEO Ko Tae-hoon

Geumsan County is the birthplace of Korean ginseng which goes back to 1,500 years ago. It is known to contain rich medicinal substances and is good for recovery of fatigue. Located in this county, Geumsan Black Ginseng is famous for producing only the GAP certified ginseng in accordance with the county’s ‘Cooperative Grading Project’.

Geumsan black ginseng goes through a manufacturing processing different from that of red ginseng: 9 times of steaming and drying procedures at the temperatures between 110 and 150℃. The steaming processes increase the level of saponin and ginsenoside Rg3 which is good for anti-cancer. 

Geumsan Black Ginseng was established in 2012. It was approved as a 6th industry business with ‘geumheuk’ in 2015 and the initial 2 employees became 22 as of 2019. The sales went up to $3.3 million in 2018 from $132,000 in 2015 with export volume taking $700,000. 

“The red ginseng market was already saturated and it was dominated by large companies. So I turned my eyes to black ginseng which has excellent medicinal effects. From the very starting point of the business, I targeted both domestic and overseas markets. And my plan made a hit” says Ko Tae-hoon, CEO of Geumsan Black Ginseng. 

The trust of ginseng produced at Geumsan Black Ginseng came from GAP (Good Agricultural Practices). GAP controls all harmful substances that might get into the products in all process of growing and selling: from growing and harvesting to processing and distributing. In addition, all products of Geumsan Black Ginseng go through GMP (Standard for manufacturing of excellent health function foods) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) so that all possible biological, chemical and physical risk factors are removed from all processing stages. 

Growing together with famers

“Digging up the ginseng can be done by machine but the ‘sorting’ must be done by skilled farmer’s hands. And I would like to proudly mention that all the sorting process at Geumsan Black Ginseng is done by all employees and famers in one mind with utmost care. The 30 sorting specialists carry on the job under the watch of family farm houses and the sorted ginseng is 5% more expensive than that of not sorted. As a result, farmers get around 10% more income.” says CEO Ko. 

This greatly encouraged famers in the region and the number of in-house farmers increased sharply to 38 as of 2018 from only 16 in 2015; it is a record high and Geumsan Black Ginseng was received as the most successful case of the 6th industry. 

“The quality of ginseng depends on the right time of harvesting and sorting. This is very important as the quality directly affects the price. When we first started purchasing of the GAP approved farmhouses, farmers were half in doubt. But the number of GAP approved farmhouses is 500 now and average 100 farmhouses harvest the ginseng every year.” The black ginseng industry in Geumsan County is supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, South Chungcheong Province and Geumsan County. 

Going global

The Korean black ginseng is as popular among foreigners as among Koreans. This is because ‘black food’ such as black beans, black rice and black garlics are being received as superfood globally. 

Starting by opening a store in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2013, Geumsan Black Ginseng opened the second store in Hanoi, Vietnam the next year and 4 more in the same country and one in New York, US. While CEO Ko keeps working on expanding the global stores, Geumsan black ginseng is being exported to France, Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and China. 

Marketing-wise, it is noteworthy to know that Geumsan Black Ginseng appointed a Miss Vietnam as an honorary ambassador of Geumsan black ginseng while obtained a ‘Kosher’ certificate, the food standard for Jews, in March this year: it is the first case in the industry. 

“Despite the huge popularity of Korean ginseng, there are still many people in the world who do not know much about it. Some might don’t like the bitter-end of ginseng and some might don’t like for other reasons. This is the point we need to find what taste they prefer if we are to spread excellence of Korean ginseng to the world.” 


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