People #11: CHO TAE KWON, The Chairman of KwangJuYo Who Is Devoted to Globalizing Traditional Korean Culture

Cho Tae Kwon, the chairman of KwangJuYo Co., Ltd., who is devoted to globalizing traditional Korean culture – and especially its cuisine – is focusing on recreating the original harmony in food in the contemporary era.
He once said in an interview, “The memory of food lasts long once it is imprinted. The essence of food lies in packaging. Containers, table setting, flowers, decorations, guests, music, liquor, and the ambience are all packaged for food. You will never forget such food.”
His idea of globalized Korean food is to make people fully appreciate and enjoy the beauty of Korean tradition. This includes the presentation, the healthiness of the food, and such things as the matching tableware, the liquor, a sophisticated interior decoration and the ethos of customer service. How has Mr Cho sought to achieve this?

Devoted to Restoring Traditional Tableware
After his father’s death in 1988, Mr. Cho took over KwangJuYo Ceramics Company according to his mother’s wishes. In order to revive traditional Korean ceramics, which had almost died out since the Joseon Dynasty, he searched through museums with professional potters, and as a result of years of collection and research, he not only successfully restored traditional ceramic art techniques and types of pottery such as inlaid work, engraving, embossed carving, buncheong celadon, cheongja jade-green celadon and white porcelain (which were all lost once) he also committed his wealth and passion to bringing those legacies to the general public by not confining them to the walls of museums but turning them into ceramics for everyday use.
It all came from his belief that the power of ceramics represents the real power of a country and traditional Korean ceramics should be loved within Korea first. As high-quality ceramics for everyday use, products of KwangJuYo were first adored by wealthy customers, but now they are widely enjoyed by the general public.

Devoted to Modernizing Healthy Traditional Food
Though traditional Korean food is well-known as well-being food retaining distinctive flavours of each ingredient and using natural seasonings, Mr. Cho thought it would be hard to make it popular among foreigners due to the way of serving the meal, with steamed rice as a main dish served together with an array of hot and cold dishes. So, he has sought to transform it into a Western-style 3 course meal and develop traditional dishes to modern taste and attain a high quality using the best ingredients available. He has succeeded in recreating the food to please modern palates, while still sticking to tradition.

Devoted to Restoring Traditional Liquors
Then he realized that there was a need for a liquor to accompany the refined tableware and food. He has always believed that the best food should be consumed with matching dinnerware and liquor. Out of personal experience, he has learned that where the best wine is, there is also the best food and it’s the rich who enjoy both. So again – just as with the restoration of traditional pottery – he put his heart and soul into restoring traditional liquors and successfully developed and commercialized a distilled spirit named “Hwayo”, which achieved the feat of winning a bronze prize at the International Wine & Spirit Competition held in London in 2007 and also a gold prize in the category of Spirits Distilled From Rice (Sochu) at Monde Selection, a food and liquor competition in Belgium in 2008 in which more than 1,400 companies participated from around the world.

Devoted to Restoring Traditional Cultural Interior
Now with traditional Korean food, tableware, and liquor on the table, he had to think of traditional interior decorations fit for them. So he restored traditional images of Korea by making wallpaper, table runners, photo frames, folding screens, covers, and cushions with motifs from such folk paintings as chochungdo (a picture of flowers and butterflies), hwajodo (a picture of flowers and birds), and chakgado (a picture of ancient scholars’ stationery). This product line of interior decoration is named “Zabihwa” after Zabidaeryeong Hwawon, which used to be a fine art institute directly subject to the king.

Mr. Cho Takes the Lead in Creating Korean Cultural Values and Developing Korean Culinary Culture for High-Class Customers Around the World
In 2003 in Seoul he opened “Gaon”, an exquisite Korean restaurant featuring traditional Korean food prepared with organic vegetables and other good ingredients, luxurious ceramics produced by KwangJuYo, good liquors restored in a traditional way, and interior decorations expressing Korean beauty.
Later, he opened its branches in Zhangjia and Beijing, China, thus taking the lead in creating Korean cultural values so that foreigners as well as Koreans can enjoy modernized Korean flavours and tastes with all their five senses.
Also in 2007, he invited about 60 vineyard owners and wine producers at Napa Valley, the U.S., who are the upper classes of the American society and the world leaders on opinion of culinary culture, and there, he created a sensation by introducing Korea’s traditional food culture.
Mr. Cho believes that as the 21st century is the age of cultural power, the competitiveness of a country depends on cultural content and its promotion. He also firmly believes that it is the challenge of this age to preserve and refine our culture, including the culinary culture, for greater international competitiveness.
After producing a thesis titled “How to Start Globalizing Korean Culinary Culture”, he has given a series of lectures, while fulfilling his worthy mission as an ambassador for Korean culinary culture.

His progress is worth following.

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