Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exploring the feasibility of halal food in Seoul

Seoul, a global and cosmopolitan city, consists of more than 10 million populations. Presently, about 2.2 percent of its population is based on foreigners and the inbound foreign tourists in Korea are about 6 million annually and most of them visit Seoul including other part of the Korea like Busan, Deagu etc.

Korea’s foods are not only delicious but also possess high level of nutrients. However, most of the Korean foods usually contain meats, which are not Halal. Halal is an Arabic term meaning “permissible”, it refers to food that is permissible by Islamic law. This project focuses on why halal food in Seoul is advantageous to city government and how it can be done within its purview. It is notable that presently mostly halal food stuffs and restaurants are located in Itaewan.

It is tough to estimate the halal food consumers among the foreign residents and tourists in Seoul. However, the number will be significantly high around 15-20 percent among them. Moreover, Korean Government’s policies towards Arab countries and vice versa and its emergence in global economy would surely enlarge the number of halal food consumers in near future.

How this project would be beneficial to government

It has many direct benefit and co-benefit for government. If implemented, Seoul will be more culturally diverse by respecting other cultures. It would ease the life for halal food consumers. In term of co-benefit, it may enhance business prospects by attracting foreign business partners especially from Muslim World. And it would be consume by all irrespective to halal food consumer, therefore overall a win-win situation.

As a planner, we should take consideration of existing situation as well as future needs and demands. As discussed above, t would enhance its face value towards pro-halal consumers. It is worth to note that Muslim populations are about 1.6 billion (about 20-25 percent of world population) which only consume halal food and beside that it can be equally consumed by native consumers too. Second, a tourist can extend their stay in Seoul if they will get culturally acceptable food which will definitely enhance tourism economy. Thirdly, halal food market is an emerging market either in the form of informal sector or small market; the city government can enhance economy by expanding halal food market in Seoul and its vicinity.

Now the next question arises within the purview of City’s government how it can be implemented. The City government can facilitate to channelize it in Seoul. It can be done by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Muslim organization of Korea, like Korea Muslim Federation. The City government can provide some incentive for keeping halal food stuff in selected city based daily need existing shops. Korean restaurants can be promoted as a hub for halal restaurant which will prove Seoul as a sacred place for halal food consumer which will further enhance tourism potentials.

In the same way, Seoul is also educational hub of not only Korea, but it is also emerging Asian educational hub. This system can be implemented in Universities too. Almost all of the universities have a couple to dozens of cafeterias. The university can dedicate a restaurant to serve halal meats and vegetables. Korean Universities usually have cafeterias and not attached dining hall system against Indian Universities and mostly students have no choice to cook, but to eat at cafeteria. If it is not possible to dedicate one cafeteria for halal food then at least part of one restaurant can be easily dedicated to halal foods and vegetables. By doing the same, the Korean Universities can cope cultural differences and attract more students especially from Arab countries.

This article is based on perception and some interviews with halal food consumers. An in-depth research can be conducted on the modalities of halal food market in Seoul. I am well convinced that it will add a new dimension to Seoul in socio-cultural and religious besides providing an economical opportunity to Seoul government. Seoul can be transformed from ‘soul of Asia’ to ‘soul of east and the west’.


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