▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
This article was originally written to promote Jeju industry and appeared in the special edition for the 2014 Asia Cruise Forum Jeju.
Around 250 cruises will call at Jeju this year, with the number set to rise steadily in the years ahead. In 2014, 500,000 cruise passengers will set foot on the island, with 1 million estimated by 2016 and 2 million, conservatively, by 2020.
Research by international cruise associations suggests that 80 percent of these passengers are open to returning as conventional tourists. Local data also suggest that, despite their short stay, passengers spend around 470 US dollars each in port, with crew members spending liberally, too.
It is easy to think of these extra tourists as a blessing for Jeju tourism, as shops fill up with passengers dockside, and buses deposit groups at Jeju’s main tour destinations. However, Jeju producers are also set to reap rewards, as local goods are loaded onto vessels just as passengers are going the other way.
To support local primary industries, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province signed an MOU with Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Development Corporation (JPDC), National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, Nonghyup (Jeju Branch) and Hanil-Fuji Korea Co.,LTD. on December 24, 2013 to supply local products to cruise companies.
This is nothing but beneficial for Jeju business, as primary industries are a huge engine of the local economy. While just 2.6 percent of GDP on the Korean mainland is from primary industries, on Jeju it is as high as 18.4 percent. Conversely, and perhaps unexpectedly, tertiary industries are as high as 77.3 percent here, thanks to the strong tourism sector. Just 67.1 percent of mainland GDP is from tertiary industries.
The cruise industry thus clearly injects cash into the tertiary sector, but it also does for primary industries, particularly as the province is actively supporting the promotion of local produce on cruise ships calling here.
Between October 2013 and May 2014, 100 million won of products were supplied to Costa Atlantica, Costa Victoria, MS Volendam and Sapphire Princess. These products were primarily the bottled water Samdasoo, cabbages, white radishes, eggs and fishes, chiefly being flatfish.
Each of these products are blessed by the island from which they hail, and there never can be too much praise for the outstanding natural environment of Jeju. Designated by UNESCO, Global Geoparks, the Man and the Biosphere Programme and New7Wonders of Nature, its fame has now spread far and wide.
It is worth considering, also, the quaint stone walls which demarcate fields and protect crops, and the wending and small original “olle” paths which define the Jeju countryside. The produce that calls Jeju home is blessed by this environment, where pure spring water bubbles up to quench the thirst of vegetables under the hot subtropical sun.
▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
The springs that are found in Jeju villages may be mostly tourist attractions now, but just a generation or two ago they were a lifeline. serving the needs of locals for both residential and agricultural needs. As Jeju’s abundant rain seeped through its porous volcanic bedrock, water filled up in aquifers, to appear here and there as springs.
As the rainwater runs over this Jeju “scoria” rock — a rough and crusty volcanic rock that is often fashioned into stone grandfathers, or dolharubang — it replenishes the soils with the rock’s rich supply of minerals and its antimicrobial properties clean the water. This pure and clean Jeju water has become the pride of its people, and a boon for local industry.
This is most obvious in Samdasoo, the representative bottled water of Korea. Having been filtered through layers of volcanic rock, they say “Samdaoo tastes different” and industry insiders give it an O index of 7.81 for taste, which is the highest in the world. It is also uncontaminated, has a sweet taste and has a low Alkali content. No wonder it is now being exported worldwide.
The water also benefits local agriculture, too.
Despite its small size, less than 2 percent of the South Korean landmass, Jeju Island is the biggest supplier of winter fresh vegetables in the nation. Thanks to the warm climate, various varieties not feasible on the mainland flourish in Jeju’s rich soils. The longer growing season also means that whereas on the mainland, crops are harvested and stored from October to November, local producers can continue to ship straight from the farm as the frosts hold off down south.
An example of Jeju’s agricultural wealth is the cabbage, 97, 428 tons of which was produced in 2013. A total of 1799 hectares of Jeju Island is given over to cabbage production and the province has a 29 percent share of the Korean market. Due to the various kinds of cabbages grown by season, the island’s crops are more competitive than other provinces.
Radish, too, is an important local crop, of which over 300,000 tons were produced in 2013 on almost 4,700 hectares. The rich Jeju soils that were discussed earlier ensure that the Jeju winter radish is 13 percent richer in antioxidants, has 25 percent more vitamins and has 17 percent more sulfation activity.
It is not just on land that Jeju is blessed.
The olive flounder is also being supplied to ships and there is good reason — over 50 percent of Korea’s total olive flounder production takes place on Jeju at over 25,000 metric tons. A series of products have been developed for export including cheese sausages, jerky, fish cutlet, sushi, potato snacks and even golf gloves other leather products.
As the cruise tourism boom attracts more and more tourists and cruise companies, it is expected to become an engine of growth in the local economy. As this happens more and more distinctive local products will be added to the inventory, such as Jeju tangerines and garlic.
So, as you look out to sea and spot a cruise ship pulling into one of Jeju’s ports, rest assured they are probably enjoying a meal of Jeju’s finest.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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