Cheese imports are on the rise in South Korea where consumers are incorporating the dairy product into more and more of their own dishes. Julie Noce reports.
Park Hyeon-young's kids can barely wait for snack time. On today's menu? Cheese. Park says it's full of nutrients. And the kids clearly love it. Cheese has calcium and protein and I prefer it to other snacks, she says. I think it helps kids who need lots of energy. Demand for cheese is on the rise in South Korea these days. As a dipping sauce for spicy BBQ ribs... or as topping for stir-fried rice, consumers are eating about 2.4 kilograms per person. In a country used to eating another fermented food- kimchi- it's not a hard stretch to see the growing popularity for the dairy product. Hwang Keum-taek is a food and nutrition professor at Seoul National University. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREAN PROFESSOR OF FOOD AND NUTRITION DEPARTMENT AT SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HWANG KEUM-TAEK, SAYING: "I think the main reason for the increase in cheese consumption is that people are frequently exposed to Western cultures, and another reason is that people eat a lot of fermented food in our country. So, they are less offended and repulsed by fermented food in this perspective." Demand for cheese in South Korea has doubled to more than 117,000 tonnes a year, largely met by imports from the U.S., New Zealand, and various European countries. Annual imports are now worth nearly $500 million dollars.