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Jeju moving beyond the ‘chopstick area’Southeast Asia is the next big market but locals need to be more sensitive to their needs
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승인 2015.03.19  15:57:02
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▲ Professor Kim Daeyong at the Jeju Islamic Cultural Center in Shin Jeju, which has now been officially recognized by the province. Photo by Darren Southcott

This article accompanies a guide to Jeju for Muslim visitors which can be found here. For interviews with local Muslim residents about Jeju's tourism facilities click here.

Professor Kim Daeyong has a number of roles. While not being a professor of tourism at Halla College in Jeju City he is vice-president of the Regional Islamic Da'wah Council Southeast Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP). He is also known as Bashir Kim after graduating in Sharia Law in Qatar and is thus a qualified Shaikh.

Kim believes Jeju needs to improve services to ensure a warm welcome for all Southeast Asians particularly as it moves beyond its dependence on China, Japan and Korea, what he calls “the chopstick area."

He says tour officials are increasingly sounding him out about Muslim needs, and his first official engagement was last December: “I have been working here for 34 years,” he says incredulously.

It was part of a symposium by Jeju Tourism Organization and Kim gave advice on a halal diet and prayer routines, all the while stressing that such understanding is just common courtesy, as afforded to guests entering one’s home.

Alongside Jeju Tourism Organization, Kim also provided advice to guesthouses and tour sites on the use of traditional carpets, the Koran and Mecca-facing signposts. He is also pushing for the installation of a prayer room at Jeju International Airport.

“You will find a prayer room in all Asian countries; international airport should mean international,” he says.
Kim followed this in January by calling for improved cultural training and halal food provision and the professor believes that locals should think of these as cultural rather than theological needs.

“I don’t think about religion. Religion is a heavy subject. Culture is an easy way to understand it ... Their lifestyle is Islam; what is Islam? They do that, they don’t do that. Very simple.”

For example, he continues, the normal Jeju welcome involves a rack of pork belly and some soju, both of which are “haram” for Muslims. Therefore, cultural training is essential.

“This kind of basic misunderstanding, like using a frying pan to fry both chicken and pork, is very serious, very serious,” he said. “There should be professional training on Muslim culture.”

Now officially registered with the province, Jeju Islamic Cultural Foundation has links to Seoul Central Mosque and the center provides pastoral services and also halal certification to restaurateurs. (In a sign of the rigours of Halal certification, Raj Mahal, a local Indian restaurant, lost its Halal certification after failing its reassessment.)

“Now we work with the government so if someone wants to open the Halal menu we train them, we educate them, and we sign it: ‘Whoomph, this is Halal.’ This will be better for everyone, especially Muslims. But it should be Korean food. Bulgogi? Why not? It should be.”

This article accompanies a guide to Jeju for Muslim visitors which can be found here. For interviews with local Muslim residents about Jeju's tourism facilities click here.

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