Chocolate On The Road: South Korea

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“During those times in Korea, all of a sudden, the specialty coffee industry is booming. Why limit yourself to just coffee? Because, as you probably are aware, cocoa is a more intriguing product. Therefore, I was the first person in Korea to bring bean-to-bar chocolate to the country.

-Eddie Kim, Co-founder of Bonaterra Chocolate

Fine chocolate is one of the many places where this standoff is being played out. South Korea’s rapid globalization is being met with a fierce sense of cultural identity, which is countered by globalization. Before the recent explosion of Korean culture onto the international scene, South Korea was frequently grouped together with its neighbors China and Japan in terms of its cultural identity. However, despite there being some similarities, the chocolate scene in Korea is its own unique force. The war that ripped the region in half just a few decades ago left the country in ruins, and it hasn’t been open to importing goods until the most recent few decades. Before that, the country was devastated by the war.

In this episode, we speak with four individuals who are attempting to reconcile the two points of view that are currently at odds with one another in Korea. In a nation that goes through food trends like paper plates at a barbeque, we discuss the history of the country’s relationship with fine chocolate as well as its consumption of it and its preferences surrounding it.

To read the article version of this episode, click here.

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Topics We Cover

  • the development of chocolate in Korea over time
  • how and when individuals in South Korea eat chocolate, as well as their thoughts on chocolate as a product and commodity
  • ways in which chocolate manufacturers in Korea are attempting to educate the local population about their products
  • what what is the deal with bean to bar? chocolate that appeals to Korean customers on a variety of levels, from tastes and combinations to consumption style
  • There are several cultural factors that have proved to be barriers in the way of getting high-quality chocolate to the Korean consumer.

Show Timeline

0:00-1:25~ Episode introduction, including an announcement about the upcoming seasons

1:25-6:45~ How Korean chocolate culture started and has continue to evolve, picking up pace especially in the last 10 years or so. (Eddie Kim)

6:45-12:10~ What it’s been like helping to build an entirely new fine food industry & educate a completely new consumer base in a very homogeneous country, and in particular, outside of the capital city. (Hanbin Paek)

12:10-19:30~ Dan Kim discussing how he and his brother decided on entering the fine chocolate market in their parents’ homeland of South Korea, and the evolution of that business, from import to creation.

19:30-22:00~ Coffee importers and roasters getting into the Korean chocolate game, and why it could be an issue. (Eddie Kim)

22:00-31:40~ Jason Chung sharing the trends, interests, and obstacles of the Korean chocolate market, from his 1.5 years as a fine chocolate importer in Korea.

31:40-37:44~ Goals Korean makers have for the local market, and how they hope to get there. Also, the end of the episode.

More About Our Guests

Eddie Kim is a cacao instructor that works all around Asia. He is a co-founder of Bonaterra Chocolate, which is based in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia. Visit Bonaterra’s Instagram and Facebook pages for more information.

Public Chocolatory, which is located in Chuncheon, South Korea, was established by Hanbin Paek. Check out Public Chocolatory’s Online Shop, as well as their Instagram and Facebook pages. You may also be interested in reading our conversation with Hanbin Paek of Public Chocolatory.

Co-founder of P.Chokko, a cacao importer and chocolate producer located in Seoul, South Korea, which was forced to shut down in the year 2020 due to financial difficulties. Dan Kim.

Despite the fact that his firm is now on hiatus, Jason Chung is the founder of Andiamo Chocolate & Coffee, a luxury chocolate importer located in Seoul, South Korea.

Further Reading

  • Kakao Talk is a product of the Kakao Corporation.
  • Lotte Confectionary’s Ghana Chocolate might satisfy your sweet need.
  • The celebration of Valentine’s Day in Korea
  • Culture around coffee drinking in South Korea
  • Tree To Bar is a cacao importer and, more recently, a chocolate manufacturer in Korea.
  • P. Chokko was featured on the Korean television show Hanbin, which was noted (page in Korean)
  • This is the video that Dan and Jon created about getting cocoa from Venezuela.
  • Jason cited the prominent artisan chocolate companies Pump Street Chocolate and Akesson’s Chocolate. Both are made in the United States.
  • It was Ms. Kanako who introduced Jason to the artisanal chocolate for the first time.