The Korea Herald


Korea’s first vegan festival offers variety

Plant-based cuisine and conscientiousness gains popularity and understanding in Korea

By 이우영

Published : May 27, 2016 - 18:07

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Korea hosted its first ever vegan festival at the Seoul Innovation Center in Eunpyeong-gu last Sunday where an array of products and foods that are based on the concept of all things void of animal relevance was on display.

Globally, plant-based foods have become integrated in the food industry as much as any other movement of the last 50 years. As their popularity grows and as the vegan diet continues to spread and evolve, Koreans have slowly embraced what may seem a bit esoteric to its meat driven populous.

Korean cuisine does have an abundance of vegetable and soy-based dishes but it’s hard to find one completely “vegan” without the addition of some kind of animal by-product.

What the festival promoted was a global approach to veganism by sharing alternative products such as soy cheeses and “meats,” and ethnic dishes such as falafels and grain burgers. Local dessert and bakery companies made up almost half the booths displaying an array of gorgeous dairy-free breads, raw and vegan desserts as well as gluten-free pastries. 
Vegan and gluten-free breads and pastries were a strong presence at Vegan Festival Korea. (Christine Cho) Vegan and gluten-free breads and pastries were a strong presence at Vegan Festival Korea. (Christine Cho)

The highlight and an obvious crowd pleaser at the festival was Kong’s Burger with a line wrapped around its booth -- customers waiting for the Busan-based specialty being offered at this inaugural event in Seoul.

Toasted organic whole wheat buns sandwiched a juicy skillet-grilled bean steak, pineapple slice, fresh lettuce, onions, and pickles served with homemade soy mayo, ketchup, and mustard. 
Bean steak burger from Kong`s Burger in Busan (Christine Cho) Bean steak burger from Kong`s Burger in Busan (Christine Cho)

This burger would cross borders for carnivores and vegans alike. The easily recognizable dish was fresh tasting and satisfyingly delicious.

The less appealing items had to be the deep-fried soy meat “chicken” and beer, a play on the local favorite bar food, as well as a very real looking vegan fried egg from Thailand paired with a soy meat hotdog on a stick. A point that many should understand is that just because one is eating a vegan or plant-based meal does not mean it is necessarily healthful or low-fat. A raw food macaron could carry just as much calorically as a dairy-based macaron, and a soy-meat alternative could be high in sodium or preservatives. It may be easy to gravitate toward foods that are familiar, but wise food choices must still be made with a plant-based diet. 
Chia puddings represent raw food desserts. (Christine Cho) Chia puddings represent raw food desserts. (Christine Cho)

Aside from the colorful and creative foods being offered what usually goes hand in hand with the vegan movement is a conscientiousness that by not eating animals and their by-products one is contributing to larger global issues such as the environment, sustainable energy, and waste.

The festival requested that the visitors bring their own plates and utensils, and there were plenty of environmentalists eager to mingle with local eco-friendly artisans peddling their crafts.

By Christine Cho (

Vegan Festival Korea Information:

Kong’s Burger:
   Address: Jurye 3-dong, Gaya-daero 272, Busan
   Telephone: (051) 316-6069

Christine Cho, a Korean-American expat in Seoul, has been eating and cooking her way around the world for 16 years as a private chef. -- Ed.