Korean to strengthen halal food segment for Muslim tourists

SEOUL • With close to one million Muslim tourists visiting South Korea last year, the Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) is taking steps to strengthen its halal food segment and promotional activities, including in Malaysia.

Its Deputy Director for South-East Asia and Middle East Park Jinho said they have taken measures to tap the ever-growing Muslim tourism market, including from Malaysia and Indonesia, which are among the highest number of Muslim tourists to the land known for its K-Pop culture.

Park said in 2017, about 990,000 Muslim tourists came to Korea, with approximately 60% of the 200,000 visitors from Malaysia were Muslims. Speaking to Bernama News Channel during the Halal Food Festival held in conjunction with the Halal Trade Expo 2018 in Seoul recently, Park said the Muslim market for the tourism sector has increased tremendously, accounting for about 6.5% in Korean inbound tourism industry.

He said KTO is targeting more than 200,000 Malaysian Muslim tourists to visit Korea this year.

Among the steps being taken is increasing the number of Muslimfriendly restaurants to 250 this year from the 237 recorded in 2017.

According to Park, the classification status of Muslim-friendly restaurants started since 2016.

“…we understand that meaning and the importance of halal food for Muslims, and we are also aware that Muslims are very careful with what they eat,” he said.

As such, he said, KTO is working with industry players to improve infrastructures, including providing halal restaurants in the country.

Park said KTO has categorised Muslim-friendly restaurants into four types, namely halal certified, self certified, muslim friendly and pork free.

On “halal certified”, he said, restaurants under the category are certified by an accredited halal certification agency such as the Korea Muslim Federation, while “self certified” refers to restaurants certified as halal by Muslim restaurant owners.

“Muslim friendly” restaurants are restaurants that sell halal food, but also serve alcohol, while the last category is a “pork free restaurant” where the food prepared is free of pork-based products, but may not necessarily be halal as the dishes could contain alcohol, or the meats are not in compliance with the Islamic way of slaughtering. — Bernama