|▲ J Food Services / Youngsup Choi|
According to a report released by Consumer Insight, South Jeolla Province topped No.1 for best restaurants. The province is widely known and recognized by Korean people that it is second to none when it comes to food. April last year, Mokpo City announced ‘Tastes of Mokpo’ at the 63 Building in Yuido Seoul to push forward city’s image as the cluster of best restaurants.
The city has been aggressively promoting regional tourism since 2019 through whole level cooperation. In fact, the city enjoyed a record high 7 million visitors last year thanks to proactive investment in researches, seminars, contents and projects relating to food and tourism.
J Food Services
Located in Mokpo, J Food Services is one of the leaders to spread excellent food and tourism of Mokpo and South Jeolla Province nationwide. The company runs 5 of its own food brands that are well known and recognized. The seaweed mixed rice ‘Haebim’ in particular has succeeded gaining nationwide recognition. Famous for fisheries and harbors, Mokpo is often called as the city of seafood.
“Haebim is perfect with cooked rice and a choice of soy source made of crab, shrimp or abalone. Once you have tried, you will never forget the taste and flavor that you cannot help yourself eating it again and again every now and then” explains Youngsup Choi, CEO of J Food Services.
Haebim attracted a great attention at the 2015 South Jeolla Food Festival and has been praised with best food for many times from a number of competitions and organizations. First opened in Yongin City, Haebim restaurant has added its number one by one in Gwanghwamun, Hyundai department store Miari, Shinsegae department store Uijeongbu, Hyundai department store Joongdong, Yeouido and Chungcheong province. As a result, the franchise is recognized as one of the best dine-out in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
“For the last 5 years, we carried on aggressive investment and marketing. And we started see its fruits from December last year. Although the virus puts business on halt for now, we are confident to resume the expansion in the same pace when things are in order again” says Choi.
Joy of dropping by for different menus
Najugomtang Yeomdaegam, Thousand Year Old Kimchi Stew, 1897 Mokpo Fishcake and Rubber Duck are all run by J Food Services. A story goes that ‘najugomtang (beef-bone soup)’ started from by-products of canned food eaten by Japanese army and ‘jaeyook dupbab (spicy pork topped rice)’ is pure Korean words used in South Jeolla Province. Talking of fishcakes, Busan cannot be missed. But Choi is ambitious to spread excellence of Mokpo fishcake as that of Busan.
“In fact, Mokpo was the biggest fishcake production base before and after the Liberation. This was because Chilsan Island and Heuksan Island were like living fish tanks and small fishes which are the main ingredient of fishcake were caught the most in this region. Some of the fishcake makers in Busan even used fishes caught here.”
It was around the time that large food companies in South Korea started to jump in the fishcake market that Mokpo fishcake saw a rapid decline. Launching 1897 Mokpo Fishcake is the very move of Choi to bring back the former glory.
“There was an old woman who fried duck wings for 47 years. It is noteworthy to say that Jeolla Province is where 90% of duct meat is produced. Launching Rubber Duck was a result of an offer of a partnership from Hyundai department store.”
Choi says that J Food Services in fact is more like branding firm than franchise because there is no reason for the company not to make the most of the natural resources of the food-rich-famous province. While resources are rich, he reckons that the branding and marketing are still lack in action and method.
This is well proved by the fact that many farmers in the province have been suffering from unfair agricultural economic system in South Korea where distributors make money while farmers almost always lose even in the seasons of abundant harvest. So Choi chose ‘branding’ to make a breakthrough.
When asked about future plan, Choi said “I’m planning to build a fishcake mall that is not only about selling local fishcakes but also embracing cultural programs and events. It will serve to increase income of local fishermen and promote local tourism at the same time.”
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