Looking for Halal: Reading Korean Food Labels

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Are you Muslim and wondering what snacks and packaged foods you can eat in Korea? South of Seoul volunteers have put together a guide for reading food labels. The information provided in this post comes from Zahra, a Muslim graduate student who lived in South Korea.

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The Struggle to Shop for Halal Food In Korea

Islam remains a minority religion in South Korea. However, with an increase in Muslim immigration and migrant workers, Korea becomes more and more halal-friendly with small stores and restaurants opening across the country.

However, labeling food in grocery stores halal-friendly still hasn’t become standard practice. This means that those wishing to eat halal will need to learn how to read Korean food labels. The following post digs deeper into how you can do this even if you aren’t able to speak Korean yet.

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Halal Certified in Korea

First of all, let’s start by looking at halal-certified foods in Korea. Korea does offer some halal-certified foods here and there. Once again, the amount of official halal items continues to grow over time. The following video takes a look at what halal food means, how it’s labeled in Korea, and what each label may mean. The following video includes Korean explanations. Click on the ‘Gear’ icon on the bottom right to choose subtitles in a variety of other languages.

https://youtu.be/hxqAkrBp7m0

Of course, if you live in more rural areas of Korea, finding halal food may become increasingly difficult and we want you to be empowered to make informed choices so let’s look at reading foods that do not have a halal label.

Checking Ingredients of Packaged Goods

As you’re shopping in Korean grocery stores, it’s important to be able to navigate nutrition information on food packaging to check for non-permissible ingredients. The allergen warning line will generally alert if the product contains meat or uses meat by-products (e.g., gelatin).

Using Papago to Read Labels

Papago is a great tool for translating ingredients on food packaging. You can snap a photo of the ingredients list and have the information translated in seconds. However, as with any translation app service, the information may not always be translated correctly.

See the video below for a tutorial on how to use the image translator on Papago.

How to use Papago’s Image Translator

Hangul Words for Key Ingredients

As a safeguard, it is good to be able to identify a few specific Korean terms to help navigate the Korean nutritional label. This is a brief list of Korean translations for common non-permissible foods that you may encounter on food packaging as you check the ingredients list.

  • Meat (used to refer to meats/beef generally) = 고기 (gogi)
  • Beef = 쇠고기 (so-gogi)
  • Chicken = 닭고기 (dakkgogi)
  • Pork = 돼지고기, 돼지 (dwaeji-gogi, dwaeji)
  • Gelatin derived from beef or pork will generally be denoted with the Korean words 쇠고기 and 돼지고기, respectively.

Examples: Reading Packaged Food Ingredients

The image below shows the nutritional information and ingredients of a popular ramen brand called Shin Ramen. We have highlighted the allergen warnings with a blue rectangle in the image shown below. For this brand, the allergen information indicates that Shin Ramen contains pork (돼지고기) and beef (쇠고기).

Shin Ramen nutrition information and ingredients list
Shin Ramen ingredients list.

As another example, the following image shows the nutritional information and ingredients of Dongwon Gaeseong Kimchi Mandu. The allergen warnings for the dumplings are highlighted with a blue rectangle as shown below. For Dongwon Gaeseong Kimchi Mandu, the allergen information indicates that this product contains pork (돼지고기), beef (쇠고기), and chicken (닭고기).

Dongwon Gaeseong Kimchi Mandu nutrition information and ingredients list
Dongwon Gaeseong Kimchi Mandu ingredients list.

Note: The allergen warning line on some products may indicate that the product was manufactured in a facility that also processes non-permissible ingredients.

Examples of Eating Halal At Convenience Stores

Using the above tips for reading food labels can be especially helpful when finding convenience foods. In the video below, you can watch people choose halal-friendly options at Korean convenience stores:


Share Your Halal Label Reading Tips

South of Seoul always strives to improve the information for our community. We want to know about any tips or tricks you may have for eating halal in Korea.

Check out this blog post for a more in-depth guide to reading Korean nutrition labels.

Join the Pyeongtaek Food & Fun Facebook Group

Join the Pyeongtaek Food & Fun Facebook Group! This South of Seoul moderated community group of active and friendly Pyeongtaek international residents makes moving to Pyeongtaek easier. With so many different voices and opinions, it is always refreshing to see everyone’s adventures in our local community. Additionally, the shared posts introduce our community to new places and old places that can feel new all over again.

Volunteer with South of Seoul

Interested in working with a fun team of talented volunteers? The South of Seoul volunteer team is always looking for other like-minded folks to research information, compile blogs, and edit content.