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The Singaporean Press Corps’ Interview with Choi Hee Jong, President of the Korea National Food Cluster Support Center

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In order to spread the news of the Korea National Food Cluster, a Korean food cluster located in Iksan, Jeonbuk, to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the rest of Southeast Asia, editor ‘DenicCabel’ of the ‘Asia Food Journal’ graced Korea with her presence. She met with Choi Hee Jong, the president of the Korea National Food Cluster Support Center, to ask various questions on the motivation behind the food cluster, the cluster’s support program for local corporations, and so on. Here are the issues that she was the most curious about and president Choi Hee Jong’s answers in a Q&A format.

Q : What was the motivation behind the food cluster’s creation?
A : Korea is highly interested in ‘food supplies’ and places a great deal of importance on ‘food.’ We believe that the food market is Korea’s growth engine. The food market has over double the employment effect of the manufacturing industry. Thus, the food cluster was chosen as a future growth engine.

Q : I’ve heard that benchmarking was done with advanced countries. What do you think are lessons to take from advanced countries?
A : I believe that a cluster is an ‘Innovation Network.’ While there were obviously lessons to take regarding foreign advanced technologies, what was truly important was the network system of food clusters in advanced countries. If a proper network between corporations and people cannot be formed, then there is no reason for a food cluster to exist. Foreign food clusters had well-made networks between corporations and people. As such, I believe that we must also take a lesson in forming networks.

Q : The food cluster project is receiving attention from the whole world. Which country has invested the most in the cluster?
A : Rather than point out a specific country, I’ll say that the entire Asian region is currently showing a great deal of interest in the food cluster. Korea is geographically close to other Asian countries, and has signed an FTA with China. As such, Korea’s food cluster is advantageous when entering overseas markets such as China.

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Q : What trends among there among the products that corporations that have moved into the Korea National Food Cluster wish to produce?
A : There are many corporations that are interested in high value added health foods. The second biggest trend involves foods that make use of traditional and regional specialty products. Corporations seek to export their products to the whole world through the Korea National Food Cluster.

Q : Does the cluster provide education on product design or use of the Pilot Plant?
A : We are in the midst of preparing general education. The Korea National Food Cluster is planning on bringing in smart technology corporations as well. As such, the cluster will carry out education on not just technical issues but also product design and marketing. Furthermore, we will rent out apartment facilities to startup corporations. It will be a system where startup corporations can grow, receive land, and construct factories.

President Choi Hee Jong of the Korea National Food Cluster Support Center also had a few simple questions for Denice Cabel. Shall we see what sort of exchange went between them?

Q: Have you ever see the food industrial complexes of other countries?
A: I have visited several food industries around the world. Netherland’s Food Valley in particular was very memorable. The Korea National Food Cluster’s cooperation with the academic world is very impressive.

Q: What do you think of Korea’s competiveness?
A : As the whole world is increasingly becoming interested in health, I think that health functional foods have become a trend. In particular, there is a rapid rise in demand for health functional foods that prevent cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure. When I visited ‘FI ASIA’ (Food ingredients Asia) recently, experts informed me that foods such as green tea, beans, and red ginseng were becoming popular. When you take these trends into consideration, I think Korea has a great amount of potential.

The interview between president Choi Hee Jong of the Korea National Food Cluster Support Center and editor Denice Cabel continued for over 1 hour in a pleasant atmosphere. The Korea National Food Cluster, the future pioneer of the global food industry~ As Asian countries such as China and Singapore shine a light over it, the cluster continues to rise even higher and take even further steps forward.

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