Neo: from South Korea to Le Marche, looking for coffee and finding…paradise!

As everybody knows the Asian market is experiencing a sudden economic growth. The steady progress of the middle class is reflected in an increase in the domestic demand. And if you think about Asia as the most densely populated area in the world, you’ll understand why many Italian entrepreneurs, as well as Europeans, are focusing their energies in an effort to improve affair with the Asian countries.

Last month, during one of my travel in Italy, I had the opportunity to meet Neo Kook, a citizen of South Korea and the owner of an import business of Italian products. We spent together a long afternoon sipping wine, tasting extra virgin olive oil and chatting.

Neo Kong, visiting the local pasta supplier "Antica Pasta" in Campofilone

Neo Kong, visiting the local pasta supplier “Antica Pasta” in Campofilone

Neo explained to me that our country is arousing attention in their country. Recently, some Korean airlines have added the Italian stopover of the Fiumicino Airport in Rome, among other European destinations. The opening of direct routes to our country, also means an increase in commercial and touristic interest.

I’ve been living in New York for several years now and I know the appeal Italy has on my American friends. It has been really interesting to learn about the perception that Eastern countries have of Italy, as well.

I’ll tell you what I’ve found out…

  • What do you do for a living today?

I am running my own company. About 8 years ago, I’ve started dealing with import of Italian products in Korea. My company is headquartered in the capital Seoul.

  • When did you first become interested in Italy?

I think five years ago when I started to import coffee from Italy. In my country cooking classes are becoming very popular and there’s a great interest in Italian cuisine.

Visiting 'Fabrica del Gusto' cooking school in Fabriano. Neo and our dear friend Silvia

Visiting ‘Fabrica del Gusto’, the cooking school in Fabriano. Neo and our dear friend Silvia, one of the founder.

Italy enjoys a favourable image due it’s strong soft-power and cultural identity, in general. Everyone knows about the food, coffee and cultural heritage.

Neo during the tour at "Antica Pasta" in Campofilone to find out more about our local pasta tradition

Neo during the tour at “Antica Pasta” in Campofilone to find out more about our local handmade pasta tradition

However, the way of thinking about coffee in South Korea is similar to the ‘American’ one, where they are used to long coffee. So, I’ve thought about an alternative way to make my customers enjoy a real short cup of Italian espresso. Here’s my trick: every time I offer a cup of coffee to them, I always refer to Italian movies. Italian actors always ended their “tazzina di caffe” (Espresso cup) in just one sip. And this fascinates my customers a lot. Promote espresso coffee this way always works!

The one and only real Italian coffee: "An Espresso, please!"

The one and only real Italian coffee: “One Espresso, please!”

  • Why did you visit Le Marche?

It was for business and also because I was looking for something different, not so popular yet. Hence something special to offer to my customers. In Korea when talking about Italy most people think mainly about Rome and Venice. I was looking for something less obvious.

  • When was your first visit?

In 2008 I visited Italy for the very first time. I actually was in Rome, Lake of Como and Florence…I finally found out about Le Marche only in 2012. Now, every year I’m back in your beautiful region for at least one week. I come over here not only for work, but also for pleasure and vacation.

A visit at the food street event "Fritto Misto" in Ascoli Piceno with our friend Monia

A visit at the food street fair “Fritto Misto” in Ascoli Piceno with our friend Monia

  • What do you think about Le Marche?

Le Marche is kind of  ‘paradise’, a green oasis. Whenever I talk about Le Marche to my friends, I love to compare it to a region in my country called Gangwondo, also known as the ‘lung of Korea’. The location of Gangwondo is very similar to Le Marche.

Panoramic view of the area of Montefeltro in Le Marche

Panoramic view of the area of Montefeltro in Le Marche

  • Since 2012 you have returned to Le Marche every year: what’s the most important reason that brings you back?

I have many reasons to visit Italy. One of them is to meet my friends who live in Le Marche. Another one is for business and also to find out more about Italy’s food culture.

Visiting the "Fontursia" vineyard in Ripatransone

Visiting the “Fontursia” vineyard in Ripatransone…

...and having an aperitivo and discussing about business in the open air!

…and having an aperitivo, while discussing about business in the open air!

  • What would you tell other visitors considering Le Marche as a destination?

If I have to use only one word, ‘HEALING’ is the one I would pick. Le Marche makes me feel peaceful and relaxed as no other place on earth.

National Park of the Sibillini Mountains, Photo Credit: Enzo Torelli

National Park of the Sibillini Mountains, Photo Credit: Enzo Torelli

Thanks Neo for sharing your thoughts about Le Marche in this interesting interview!

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24 thoughts on “Neo: from South Korea to Le Marche, looking for coffee and finding…paradise!

  1. I really enjoyed this post and found it interesting to read of Neo’s perspective on espresso. I never drank coffee myself until I started visiting Italy!

    Le Marche is only one of 3 regions of Italy that I have not yet visited. It looks so beautiful.

    • Margie,
      so happy you stopped by my blog!:-) Grazie mille!
      I really hope you’ll be able to visit Le Marche sometime. I would love to hear your thoughts and read about your experience there.
      Ciao, Isa.

    • Thanks for shopping by Jan!
      This pcture was shot in the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains, an area located between Le Marche and Umbria regions, Italy.
      Each year between late May and early July, those plains becomes a triumph of colorful shades: thousands of flowers bloom and there’s an esplosion in colors ranging from yellow ocher to red, from purple to white.
      You can admire lentils (especially grown in a town called Castelluccio, where lentils are one of the most typical products), gentianellas, poppies, narcisuss, violets, daffodils, clovers, shamrocks and many more.
      This time of the year is called “La Fiorita” in Italian (ala “In bloom”) and can be seen especially in the Castelluccio di Norcia area.
      It’s a powerful Mother Nature show! A really unique experience:-)

  2. Oh that’s such a great read. I always seem to miss when you do a post – even though I have ticked ” following!” That’s a great slant to do an interview on other peoples thoughts on the area. Like the way he persuaded them to drink espresso 🙂

  3. Healing….. I love that as one word to describe where we live. As my adult daughter says “Where my mother lives is like Ohmmm” .Your interview was enjoyable to read and interesting.

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