Recognizing the growing number of young entrepreneurs in Korea’s food and restaurant industries, USMEF designed and organized an event on Jeju Island to give college students and young professionals practical advice – and to introduce U.S. red meat as a staple ingredient when starting a business. Described as a “talk concert,” the event was funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the Pork Checkoff and the Beef Checkoff Program.
More than 150 entrepreneurs participated in the talk concert, while about 650 people joined a U.S. red meat tasting event that followed.
After the event, Jeju University students who participated uploaded photos and positive comments about U.S. red meat. A video of the event can be seen online.
This was USMEF’s first attempt at holding a program for young people in Jeju Island, regarded as a favored location for young food entrepreneurs because of its attraction to tourists, noted Jihae Yang, USMEF director in South Korea.
“We have established a good relationship with the Jeju National University Enterprise Support Foundation and key stakeholders, including renowned restaurant owners, and we met with them to discuss details of the event,” said Yang. “USMEF then provided information about the benefits of U.S. beef and pork to Korea’s food industry to help speakers at this event connect with our target audience – in this case, those who need the information about a food startup business.”
The concert consisted of two sessions. In the first, restaurant owner and celebrity entrepreneur Sukcheon Hong talked about how he grew his business to become a popular and well-respected establishment. Leo Choi, owner of a famous Thai food restaurant in Jeju, and Changeon Jang, owner of a famous pizza restaurant in Jeju, followed with practical advice based on their experiences and challenges.
The second session was a U.S. red meat sampling event held in collaboration with Smoke House and Island Kitchen restaurants, along with the popular food truck business AB Truck, which offers a diverse menu of U.S. beef and pork. Texas-style barbecue, American bacon and egg sandwiches and U.S. beef cube steak were served. The tasting included opportunities for digital engagement and social media coverage. Mainstream media and Korean food media outlets also covered it.
“Awareness of USMEF among target audiences is increasing and those who participated in the talk concert got to know and experience U.S. red meat,” said Yang.
Yang said the strategy to reach young people in Korea could provide long-term benefits. She pointed to National Tax Service data that showed business startups in South Korea totaled 1.226 million last year, up 3 percent from the previous year. The number of new businesses opened by Koreans age 15-34 totaled 226,000 in 2016.
“The number of self-employed, including those in the restaurant and lodging industries, continues to rise,” explained Yang. “However, there is a need for programs that provide practical information on food businesses for these young people.”