According to the Korean Trade Association, domestic wine imports in Korea are increasing every year to $ 144.2 million in 2012, $ 188.12 million in 2014, and $ 1.145 million in 2016. This is however lower than the average wine consumption per year in the Western countries such as France, Italy or Spain. So, what would have been the reason for Sarah Hong to start this wine curation business in Korea?
As I studied international relations and worked in the foreign policy arena in the US, I realized wine wasn’t just a “great tasty drink,” but a powerful tool for diplomats to negotiate.
Sarah Hong, CEO of Soo de Vie saw the possibility for progress in this field like Europe, where the wine market has already grown big since decades and Korea for her, has great potentials for this business. She believes “wine diplomacy” fits in the many successful cases to follow like France and other European countries.
Wine curation is the art of selecting a wine that can enhance the value of an event or person by telling a story that’s relevant.
Therefore, customers will be able to choose the most valuable and meaningful wine for any events they want to celebrate. In an interview Sarah Hong said that most of the Korean people have interest in wine but that they do not know much about it. She believes this phenomenon can be supplemented by many curating the Korean cuisine and wine pairings that is on progress. The wine consumption is expected to increase rapidly in Korea which is the perfect opportunity to seize for Soo de Vie. However, she explains that there are still too many regulations for wine business in Korea. “It’s an “old school” model that hasn’t changed since the Japanese occupation, with a very conservative distribution system.” This disadvantage is still believed to be surmounted by the huge demand for wine consumption and education in Korea that Soo de Vie is aiming for. Their hard work for curation has given a great result, giving birth to ‘Bomi’ wine, a wine that represents the reunion of Germany after the Cold war. Eventually, Sarah Hong could not miss the fact that Korea has also the wound from the Korean War and hopes ‘Bomi’ stands firmly as the symbol of peace between the two countries.
For 2020, Soo de Vie has 2 goals: Have an urban winery in Seoul and export Korean wines to Us and France. “Soodevie is currently partnering with a few Korean wine-makers to make our own Soodevie-brand wines.”
Likewise, they will be able to expand this partnership to their own urban winery that sells their own wines produced in Korea. “Korean food hasn’t received fair judgement due to lack of marketing and branding, especially in France.” Sarah Hong appeals for the need of Korean food marketing in Western countries. She believes that an excellent example of wine diplomacy could be settled by introducing well curated Korean cuisine and wines.
Honestly, if we were to just talk about selling wines, our competitor would be the big conglomerates, like Shinsegae and Lotte, etc. But we focus on curation and content – something they can’t do.
Like her statement, the best arsenal for Soo de vie is based on curation. Their primary goal lies on providing ‘cultutally relevant’ contents and client-focused curating services. These strong points will allow them competitiveness, setting them apart from others who only import foreign wines. This idea leads us to their long-term goal, a goal that promotes the potential of Korean wines, related to ‘wine diplomacy’. As a French-Korean-American, Sarah Hong has the hope for connecting the different cultures through wine curation and to stand one day, as a major representative wine company among the three countries.