Article and images cross-posted from Co-operative News.

Over 300 people are producing 340 items for food co-operatives across a 15 hectares site.

Korea’s first eco-friendly organic food cluster, Gurye Natural Dream Park, produces rice, bakery products, dumplings, Korean traditional cookies, rice wine, and processed duck meat.

The initiative, which has recently celebrated its first anniversary, is a flagship project of iCoop Korea, the country’s consumer co-operative group. Covering an area of 15 hectares (37 acres), the park is an industrial complex that combines production and processing factories, logistics and green tourism. A celebratory festival attracted 4,000 members and residents from the local community, who took part in tasting products.

A logistics centre in the park stores raw ingredients, a duck/chicken processing plant, cold storage warehouses, processing centres, food inspection centres and various support facilities. The park attracts around 2-3,000 visitors a month, who come to see how products are made and go on factory study tours. Schools from the local community also run trips to the park, where children get to take part in cooking classes, watch movies or enjoy meals at the park’s restaurant. Other facilities include a fitness centre, shops and book cafés.

Through this project, iCoop, which is made up of 78 consumer co-ops, aims to boost growth across the local community. The park provides jobs for over 300 Gurye residents. A report by Gurye County revealed that the complex had helped generate a total of KRW10.2bn (£5.8m/US$9.1m) in the local community. To increase the park’s use of renewable energy solar panels were installed on the roofs of ramen and Kimichi factories while the logistics centre using geothermal energy.

The complex has also helped improve existing health services in the county. In January, the iCoop Seed Foundation supported the reopening of the OB/GYN centre, which had been closed for three years since 2011 due to the lack of doctors in Gurye. Students from the local community also receive KRW 30m (£17,000/US$26,000) in scholarships. These initiatives fall in line with iCoop Korea’s objective to “realise a healthy and hones society through a variety of public services”, said Gurye Natural Dream Park managing director, OH Hangsik. Overall, 59,000 people visited the park since its opening in 2014.

Author Anca Voinea focuses on international news – and with French, Spanish and Romanian languages under her belt, this is an important area of growth for the news. In addition to writing general news, Anca's specialisms include politics and sport.

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