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(Yonhap Interview) Daegu Chimac Festival aims to globalize popular Korean food culture: official

All Headlines 15:03 July 28, 2016

By Kim Eun-jung

DAEGU, July 28 (Yonhap) -- Fried chicken and beer is good any time of the year, but if you just can't get enough, embrace the hot sizzling weather of Daegu and try all kinds of chicken dishes and ice cold beer in one place.

The popular food combination of Korean-style fried chicken and beer is locally called "chimac," also spelled "chimaek," which is the main theme of "Daegu Chimac Festival" currently under way in this city located some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Starting as an experimental festival hosted by local chicken franchises in 2013, the summer event devoted to the beloved combo drew much attention from the beginning.

About 880,000 visitors flocked to last year's event, and now in its fourth year, the organizer aims to attract more than 1 million during the five-day festival that began on Wednesday.

"Starting as a small event hosted by local business communities to expand the market, we are now seeking to make the festival a business venue that promotes Korean chicken and beer culture at home and abroad by combining things to eat, see and do in a fun setting," Choi Sung-nam, the director-general of the Korea Chimac Industry Association, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Choi said this year's event is back with more chicken and beer as the government accepted the organizer's request to allow sales of draft beer in outdoor settings. In past events, only canned beer was served under strict regulations.

A total of 222 booths are set up in Duryu Park and the surrounding area as well as Pyeongwha Market, famous for "Chicken Gizzard Road," and Seobu Market, getting ready to sell 430,000 chickens and 300,000 liters of beer.

As beer is what people drink to stay alive on a long hot summer night, the organizer prepared ice containers to help vendors serve beer at the right temperature.

"The best beer moment comes when you drink ice cold beer when your body temperature peaks," the big fan of beer himself said with a smile. "We pay extra attention to serving the best beer for this event."

Choi said it is natural that Daegu has become a "mecca of chimac" because it is abundant with fresh chicken provided by many poultry farms in the nearby region. It is also home to nationally-renown brands, including Mexicana, Pericana, Kyochon, Hosigi and Cheogagip Chicken, which have opened stores abroad over the past decade.

"The Korean economy rapidly grew during the 1970s, and chicken became an affordable source of protein among blue-collared workers," the 48-year-old said. "Chicken and beer is now loved by all kinds of people."

Fried chicken has become more popular after U.S. fast food chain KFC entered the nation in 1984, inspiring local franchise chains to sell localized menus, such as sweet and spicy, soy sauce and garlic chicken. Currently, there are about 36,000 chicken restaurants across the nation.

To enliven the food-themed festival, concerts by top-notch idol groups, rock bands and electronic music DJs will give K-pop fans an adrenaline rush every night. Participants can play at an outdoor swimming pool and a water slide and participate in various entertainment events.

"Unlike past events that focused more on celebrities, we have increased events that visitors can enjoy," said Choi, who has worked with several festivals and events. "We also put much effort into enhancing amenities and transportation based on feedback from last year. We tried to mobilize all possible content to create a new regional festival model through trial and error."

As competition toughens up in the domestic market, Choi hopes that the festival can pave the way for local companies to raise their brand image through the event.

This year, a trade fair was held on the sidelines of the event on Thursday to help local franchise brands make inroad into the global market. A dozen buyers from seven countries, including China, Vietnam and Malaysia, had consultation sessions in search of business opportunities.

"Chicken and beer is one of the most popular and familiar food experiences in Korea, and we want to make it a killer attraction to target the global market," he added.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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