Chung Hae-moon, second from right, director general of the ASEAN-Korea Center, joins guests at the opening of the ASEAN pavilion during Food Week 2012 at the COEX, Nov. 5. From left are Abdullah Zawawi bin Tahir, deputy chief of mission at the Malaysian Embassy; Luis Cruz, Philippine ambassador to Korea; Chung; and Ky Sim Chan, Cambodian ambassador to Korea.
By Kim Se-jeong
An unexpected highlight at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pavilion during Food Week 2012 in Seoul last week was coffee from the Philippines made from highly-coveted civet droppings.
Named after the Asian palm civet, a cat-like mammal, the coffee beans are eaten by the tree-dwelling mammals and their dung is then collected by local farmers.
Vie C. Reyes from Philippine coffee company Bote Central buys and commercializes the civet coffee beans. She said the unique process creates the authentic flavor. The digestive process in the civet's body "changes the chemical composition of the beans," she said, and that makes the coffee a bit more expensive.
One small bag of ground beans, enough for one brew, cost 6,000 won (approximately $5).
The coffee company was one of 30 from 10 Southeast Asian countries invited by the ASEAN-Korean Center. It was part of the center's efforts to promote economic and socio-cultural cooperation between ASEAN and Korea.
The center's Director General Chung Hae-moon hoped that its efforts will contribute to boost bilateral trade.
The list of products exhibited varied from dried fruit, seafood, coffee and tea, to pre-cooked frozen food.
Having opened in March 2009, the Seoul-based center's mission is to enhance exchanges in investment, tourism and culture between Korea and the 10 member states of ASEAN.
To this end, the center has organized public-outreach activities, such as lunchbox lectures on culture, art and tourism, a painting and photo contest and an exhibition. Moreover, it invites Korean businesses and entrepreneurs to explore opportunities in member countries and vice versa.