Int'l slow food festival draws over 500,000 visitors

NAMYANGJU, South Korea, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- A major international slow food festival in South Korea wrapped up its six-day event that provided more than 500,000 visitors with a chance to experience eco-friendly foods from around the world, organizers said Monday.

The 2013 AsiO Gusto in Namyangju, east of Seoul, closed the curtain on its weeklong programs on Sunday, after featuring hundreds of slow foods the world over and especially the culinary riches from the Asian and Oceanian region.

"AsiO" is a portmanteau of Asia and Oceania, and "gusto" means "taste" in Italian.

A total of 533,000 people visited the festival that included international conferences, workshops and diverse tasting events, according to the Namyangju city government, Slow Food Culture Center and the Slow Food International.

The three main pavilions -- differentiated by theme and country -- featured nearly 1,200 foods from 76 countries that are no longer common, as well as traditional foods from 43 countries in this region.

Visitors were able to taste various types of food and drink at booths lining a 40-meter-long "world food street."

"The event brought more visitors than expected. I think its success shows how much people are interested in healthy food," a city official said.

The "slow food" movement is purportedly the answer to the prevalent fast-food culture represented by McDonald's and other similar chain restaurants. The slow food campaign started in Italy in the 1980s and now has some 100,000 members in more than 160 countries around the world, according to the festival's website.

The Namyangju event also served as a chance to promote one of the international slow food agency's key projects of the so-called Ark of Taste, in which the organization travels the world to collect small-scale, quality food products that face extinction, the organizers said.

The agency has so far collected 1,179 such endangered foods and seeds from 76 countries, which include eight kinds of food in South Korea.

"Different from other festivals, the event helped raise public awareness of the importance of food, which is not only good for our health but also the environment," Namyangju Mayor Lee Seok-woo said. "We will strive harder to organize a successful AsiO Gusto festival in 2015."

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