Odds are improving that South Korean fast-food customers soon will be eating Idaho french fries.
A trade team of South Korean officials and representatives of the country's largest fast-food chains spent the past week taking a firsthand look at Idaho potato processing. In the process, they strengthened business ties with Idaho potato processors."Korea is the end user for many of these products," Hun-hee Kim, director of Korea Lotteria Co. Ltd., said through an interpreter.
Lotteria is one of the largest fast-food chains in South Korea. Representatives from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy's restaurant chains in South Korea also were members of the trade mission.
"In order to strengthen the relationship between the end users, the purchasers from Korea are getting to know the process because the import standards for Korea vary from export standards in the United States," Kim said. "This mission will help relax some of the tension caused by the differences."
Differences in packaging requirements and the South Korean government's specifications on the use of pesticides have caused some difficulties in the past in marketing processed Idaho potatoes to the Far East nation.
But Kelly Olson, marketing and development administrator for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said the mission was an important step toward educating Koreans about quality control and processing methods in Idaho.
"More people are eating out and eating more Western-style foods," Olson said. "They don't produce a variety of potato that makes a good french fry, and we want them to come to Idaho when they go shopping."
The market for processed potatoes is increasing dramatically in South Korea. In 1988, the country imported 4.5 million pounds of french fries. That increased to 6 million pounds in 1989, and South Korea expects to purchase 11 million pounds this year. In 1991, the country estimates it will import 60 million pounds of french fries.