During its 5,000 year-long history, Korea developed a very unique heritage of food, shelter, and clothing. Traditional clothing or "hanbok" is known for its beautiful colors, comfortable ampleness, and elegant silhouette while kimchi, a scientifically fermented food, is already being shared proudly with people all over the world. "Hangwa" (cookies) and "dduk" (rice cake) capture the genuine taste of nature. In these cultural traditions are found the life, spirit, and philosophy of the Korean people. The following is an introduction of businesswomen who have succeeded in merchandising the tradition and culture of Korea.
Traditional Hanbok/Rewriting the History of Hanbok
- Lee Young Hee, CEO of Maison de Lee Young Hee
Designer Lee Young Hee (CEO of Maison de Lee Young Hee Ltd.), who held a traditional hanbok fashion show in celebration of the 10th APEC Women Leaders' Network Meeting (APEC WLN) is known for rewriting the history of hanbok design. After founding Lee Young Hee Hanguk Euisang in 1977, she introduced Korean clothing in runways around the world. She was then invited by the White House to hold a fashion show to celebrate Independence Day in 1983. Since 1993, she has participated in Pret-a-Porte Paris 24 times and held touring fashion shows in New York and Washington D.C. in 2003. The key element of her works is the "harmony of colors." She believes that, "Clothing without harmonious color composition is of no value. And it is the silhouette that enhances the color." Accordingly, her works exhibit the aesthetic of unique color harmony and silhouette of traditional Korean costume.
In 2004, with a firm belief that the shortcut to globalize the traditional fashion is to make the world understand Korean culture, Lee Young Hee opened Lee Young Hee Korea Museum in Manhattan, New York.
Lee Young Hee Hanbok that Globalized the Korean Traditional Costume, Hanbok
Casual Hanbok/ Pioneering Casual Hanbok with an Experimental Spirit
- Kim Nam Hee, CEO of Dolsilnai
Transformed for Everyday Wear Saenghwal(Casul) Hanbok
Recreating the Korean traditional hanbok into modern casual attire, Dolsilnai (CEO Kim Nam Hee), since its establishment in 1995 has strived to introduce hanbok with an experimental spirit. Disappointed by the fact that both the academic and the business world of fashion considers only western wardrobes, CEO Kim Nam Hee, while studying fashion in university, founded a fashion culture society with her classmates, where she studied and made casual hanbok. Dolsilnai currently operates 30 stores nationwide and is prospering in the market, with a 150% annual sales growth.
Unlike the bright vivid colors used in traditional costumes, pastel colors are mainly used in Dolsilnai's casual hanbok. CEO Kim emphases that the commoners, in the past, couldn't dye their clothes with vivid colors and although the colors look faded, the clothing possessed pure beauty.
Kimchi / Conquering the World with Mother's Recipes
- Kim Soon Ja, President & CEO of Hangsung Food Co.
The food that represents Korea, without question, is kimchi. The world is now paying attention to kimchi's nutritional value, too. As a rich source of lactobacillus as well as vitamins A, B1, and C, kimchi is considered a great health food. In 1986, the CEO of Hansung Food, Kim Soon-ja transformed the food prepared in the kitchens of every Korean household, kimchi, into a 50 billion won business.
Sesame Leaf Roll Cabbage Kimchi
As a kimchi supplier for major international events including the 19988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games and the 2002 Busan Asian Games, Hansung Food Co. now has over 70 kimchi related patents.
With her plans to develop kimchi recipes to attract consumers in not only Korea but the whole world, CEO Kim is also creating and manufacturing kimchi varieties that are new to even the Koreans: cactus kimchi, sesame leaf-cabbage roll kimchi, and mini roll bosam kimchi.
Hangwa/The Taste of Nature-Traditional Health Cookie, Hangwa
- Shim Young Sook, CEO of Gyodong F&B
Hangwa, Traditional Korean Cookies made by Natural Fermentation
Hangwa is one of Korea's traditional foods most worthy of an international market. After mass-produced western cookies took over the domestic market, hangwa is nowadays more familiar to Koreans as a premium gift item.
Shim Young Sook, the CEO of Gyodong F&B praises traditional fermenting technology as "the greatest invention of our ancestors" and the once ordinary housewife achieved a remarkable 5 billion won in sales just in department stores last year. CEO Shim comments that hangwa is made from grains that are fermented for 10 to 20 days and its taste is clearly different from yeast-fermented western cookies. She also proudly comments that no artificial preservatives are used when making hangwa and that it is a scientific food since the grain syrup in the cookie prevents oxidation. She is recently leading the transformation of hangwa by developing products with new ingredients such as chocolate.
Dduk/The Traditional Festive Food, Upgraded to a New Version
- Kim Ok Soon, CEO of Hanguk Minsok Food
Made from Rice Dduk is an Imporatant Festive Food
Since ancient times, dduk has been one of the essential dishes for ceremonies and rituals. Dduk was a special food for entertaining guests and it was also preferred as a meal alternative for travelers. However the market for Korean rice cake, dduk, declined as western bakery products such as cakes and breads were introduced. Dduk is making a comeback in the domestic market as a variety of dduk recipes that satisfy the tastes of modern consumers are being introduced. Hanguk Minsok Food has been making traditional dduk for 15 years and by only domestically grown rice. CEO Kim is now leading a company with annual revenues of two billion won. Her company currently manufactures over 50 types of dduk.Made from Rice Dduk is an Imporatant Festive Food
The CEO mentions that duteop dduk (royal rice cake) is one of her company's featured products but she's also attracting young consumers with her new cheese dduk cake. In principle, all products are sold on the day of production yet she comments that if there were a breakthrough in new packaging technology, she would like to explore export opportunities as soon as possible.