It has been nearly a year since the last posting to this blog.
A lot has happened here in Gwangju, and in the world.
GIC (the Gwangju International Center) offices have had a full make-over; today a professional sign-writer was putting the finishing touches on the new logo inside the office, to match the new paint-job and refurbishing throughout the rooms.
Meanwhile, here in Gwangju, the Gwangju Fair Trade Movement continues with the goal of supporting local fair trade organisations. We are doing this by promoting and supporting fair trade products available within Korea, here on this website, and by continuing with the Fair Trade Cafe where you can also find samples to buy at the same prices as elsewhere in Korea.
The Fair Trade Cafe has been operating at the Saturday afternoon GIC talk sessions since the middle of last year. As GIC has expanded and upgraded, so has the cafe. Two new workers are regularly on hand to staff the cafe, and make you a hot fresh cup of certified Fairtrade tea, coffee or, now newly available hot chocolate. The staff are bi-lingual and so can chat in Korean or English about fair trade with you or friends you bring to GIC before the talk from 2 -2.30pm, or after the talk from 3.30 - 4.40pm.
The cafe now also stocks milk and creamer, and supplies certified Fairtrade sugar for your drinks. But if you really have a sweet tooth check out the certified Fairtrade chocolate or stawberry jam. The chocolate, just like the sugar, tea, coffee and hot chocolate is supplied from our friends at the Seoul-based Ulim Fairtrade Store, and the stawberry jam is from the local Tesco/HomePlus, as is the certified Fairtrade cinnamon and ground ginger.
Also within Gwangju the coffee craze continues, with more specialty and chain espresso stores opening, and diversifying their product lines. A Twosome Place and Holly's coffee shops both now stock three varities of the smaller 45 gram Divine certified Fairtrade chocolate bars.
Beyond Gwangju, the global economy has changed.
Times have become harder for many people suddenly unemployed.
This will be having an impact on demand for luxury items such as many of those provided by fair trade producers.
This means the role of promoting, supporting, and purchasing fair trade products is more important than ever.
Korea remains a priviledged 'newly developed' country, and thus has an important role as a still under-developed market for fair trade products.
The change in global economy brings new opportunities as some traders are discovering, with the influx of Japanese tourists to Seoul and Busan enticed by the cheaper Korean won as against the Japanese yen.
Japanese consumers are generally more used to the high quality associated with fair trade products, and are used to demanding and finding fair trade products available more widely.
Thus, these times are actually potentially ripe with opportunity for fair trade organisations, particularly those in Seoul and Busan.
So, if you want to go ahead and buy your own supplies, please go straight to the source.
If you would like to 'try before you buy,' you are welcome to meet us down town at GIC on a Saturday afternoon.
We hope to see you there!