Going for an afternoon walk around a park in South Korea’s second-largest city Busan, Indonesian tourist Rati and her two Muslim friends said they were almost starving for failing to find halal-certified food, Channel News Asia reported.
“There is halal food that’s Indian, but we want to have halal Korean food,” lamented Rati’s friend Meri, 30.
Finally, they had a solution, i.e. to eat the seafood the port city is famed for, which they said is considered “safe to eat”.
Having also visited the country’s capital Seoul, they said that they found it more difficult to travel in Busan, compared to Seoul.
“In Seoul, all the halal food is in the same area in Itaewon so we can go there,” Meri said.
Wan Rusnee Wangsoh also faced difficulties in Seoul as she could not find Muslim-friendly food in tourist areas like Hongdae
Such challenges faced by Muslim tourists come despite South Korea’s push to attract them.
According to the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) website, Muslim tourists from Asia and Oceania are a “focus area”.
Imam at Seoul’s Korea Muslim Federation Abdul Rahman Lee told CNA that it is still a challenge for Muslim tourists to get halal food, though many changes have taken place in the last four years to make Seoul more Muslim-friendly.
Some Muslims, however, believe that restaurants in Seoul are becoming more aware of Muslims.
“Some restaurants serve halal meat even though they are not halal-certified,” Lailatul Husna, a Malaysian studying in Korea said.
According to the Korea Muslim Federation (KMF), established in 1967, there are about 120,000 to 130,000 Muslims living in South Korea, both natives and foreigners.
The majority of South Korea’s population is made up of migrant workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The number of native Korean Muslims is estimated at some 45,000.
Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” The term is commonly used for meat, but it’s also applied to other food products, cosmetics, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals which mustn’t be derived from non-halal sources like pork.
Halal also applies to any other consumed and edible materials which mustn’t be harmful to human health. For example, Islam considers wines, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, E-cigs, hookah and other unhealthy things to be non-halal.