- Ushering in new era for Korean goods in Wuhan
Lim Dongseong in his restaurant
By Vicky Huang and Intern Ji Shirui
Ever wonder what Wuhan would be like if it lacked food, clothes, and cosmetics from South Korea? Well, this is exactly what Wuhan was like seven years ago. At that time, it was rare to find Korean goods in local markets. However, after a group of enthusiastic merchants, among which was Lim Dongseong, arrived here with an interest in bridging the gap between Wuhan and South Korea, everything started to change.
The rise of another "Seoul"
Lim Dongseong has been living in China for more than 20 years. Prior to his arrival in Wuhan, he was involved in trade between South Korea and Shanghai.
Wuhan had a very limited selection of Korean goods when he first arrived. He said, "All the Korean products here were brought in from cities like Qingdao and Beijing and were sold for very high prices. We realized that if we directly imported Korean goods, we could sell them for favorable prices and usher in a new era for Korean goods in Wuhan." Lim Dongseong decided to put his theory to the test. Lim Dongseong first came to Wuhan as the deputy director of a food distribution and trading company.
Shortly after Lim Dongseong and the other members of his group arrived in Wuhan, the local market began to change. Within a period of just one year, around 500 different types of Korean products imported directly from South Korea could be found at local supermarkets like Carrefour and Wal-Mart.
Lim Dongseong and his company's arrival made the Korean goods in Wuhan more prominent. Take citron tea for example. One kilogram of citron tea sold for around RMB 45 in Shanghai; in Wuhan, before the market shift occurred, one kilogram of citron tea cost almost twice as much. However, the same product could be purchased for the relatively low price of RMB 30 per kilogram after Lim Dongseong and his company arrived.
"At that time, we were receiving both political and financial support from the governments of both Wuhan and South Korea. We also implemented a lot of promotional campaigns. This made locals a lot more receptive to the goods that we were bringing in," he explained.
"I never would have guessed that people in Wuhan would be as into Korean products as they are. After just one year here, the sales volume for Korean food products sold in Wuhan spiked and ranked third in the nation," he said, "The introduction of Korean goods and the related market boom here in Wuhan made this city another Seoul."
"Although our entrance into the market is considered a miracle, we actually faced a lot of difficulties during the first few years," Lim Dongseong said, recalling the first few years of development. When he first started doing business in Wuhan, he even struggled to find proper office space and a suitable warehouse. The latter was especially important. "When we imported products from Korea, we sometimes received hundreds of containers." Even with difficulties ahead, Lim Dongseong never gave up. Shortly after they set up an office in Wuhan, Lim Dongseong and some of his local colleagues started to organize the Korean Food Festival, which proved to be yet another success in Wuhan's market.
H o m e i n W u h a n
Name: Lim Dongseong
Nationality: South Korea
Time spent in Wuhan: 7 years
Occupation: Chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce in Wuhan
The flavors from South Korea
Three years ago, Lim Dongseong decided to branch out and start a new business. He opened a Korean restaurant, Xintang Rice Cake, here in Wuhan. According to Lim Dongseong, this wasn't something that just came to him one day. Making and serving South Korean dishes is a way of life for his family.
"All four of my brothers and sisters are involved in the food service industry. My brother and sister opened a South Korean barbecue restaurant in Tokyo; it has now become a chain restaurant. One of my other brothers is running a barbecue restaurant at home, and the other is involved in food materials back in South Korea," he explained. In 2011, Lim Dongseong decided to bring the family business to China.
In order to ensure that his business would be a success, Lim Dongseong spent a year and a half investigating local markets; After much preparation, he finally decided to open his restaurant on Jianghan Road. In 2014, Lim Dongseong opened a second Xintang Rice Cake establishment on Zhongnan Road.
Running a Korean restaurant in Wuhan has a number of advantages.
"The situation was completely different from when I first came here. Now, I can feel a stable and prosperous Korean food market in Wuhan. Whenever I enter a supermarket, I can easily find around 400 to 500 Korean food products. Sometime, I even order materials directly through a phone call. Things have changed a lot over the past few years." He explained.
"In order to ensure that we provide healthy Korean dishes, I use naturally-fermented products and avoid additives like MSG. We make a lot of the sauces ourselves; the production period takes about two weeks." This requires more time and may appear as a disadvantage, but Lim Dongseong is committed to maintaining his high standards. He said, "As long as this restaurant represents authentic South Korean taste, I will continue doing what I have to do."
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