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[Newsletter] The Rising Stars in the Food Industry are all "Bio"

BK Bio is a specialized company in R&D and production of bio materials.


The representative phrase that describes Jeju Island would be “The natural environment gifted by heaven.” However, there is more value and potential hidden in Jeju than just its beautiful nature. Many companies that have found such value have moved to Jeju Island. BK Bio was one of them, dreaming about a world where everyone gets healthier.


Food material specialists discover potential in Jeju Island


BK Bio is a research company founded in 2002 by specialists in the same field. They mainly perform research commissioned by large food companies or sell new substances that they have developed through research to companies in need.


People's interest in nutrition has grown naturally with improved income and lifestyle. This means that highly functional and high-quality food markets have also begun to expand," explained Choi Hyuk-Joon, CEO of BK Bio. It was a clear reason for him to set up the business. It was in 2010 that BK Bio looked to Jeju Island. It was during this period that the charming colors of the island started to be highlighted.


“Green tea was our first target. We tried to prove that the quality of green tea produced in Jeju is scientifically good. In fact, during the planning stage, we thought that even if there was a difference in composition compared to green tea grown in other regions, it would not be a significant difference since they are from the same seed.”


However, his preconceived idea was broken by the test results. It was found out that not only green tea, but also various crops and plants grown in Jeju such as broccoli, cabbage, Korean dendropanax, and Sasa Borealis showed significant difference from those harvested in the continent.


Without hesitation, BK Bio built a research center in Jeju to conduct more research on the original ingredients that can only be found on the island. The fact that Jeju is a popular tourist location for the Chinese also played a role. They decided that once they make highly functional products using the image of Jeju Island, they will be able to target a greater market called China.


Products produced by BK Bio

CEO Choi Hyuk-Joon of BK Bio


A grand relocation to Jeju Island


“For a company to grow, there has to be a decisive turning point.
It was moving to Jeju Island to us, and we were confident about it.
Jeju had a variety of differentiated resources and a steady supply of such resources.
Those two benefits were all we needed to meet the challenge.”


In 2015, BK Bio decided to move their headquarters to Jeju Island. That wasn't an off-the-cuff decision. They made plans three years ago and were preparing to go into more promising markets. They actually opened a branch in Hangzhou, China, in 2014.


In 2008, BK Bio's sixth year of operation, the company was chosen as a technologically innovative company. Also, it grew up to be chosen for the “Mid-sized Firm Promotion” by the Federation of Korean Industries. With such a fanciful story, relocating the headquarters to Jeju Island might have been a risky decision. But CEO Choi shook his head.


“For a company to grow, there has to be a decisive turning point. It was moving to Jeju Island to us, and we were confident about it. Jeju had a variety of differentiated resources and a steady supply of such resources. Those two benefits were all we needed to meet the challenge.”


Food industry companies held mixed opinions on BK Bio's decision. Large food companies, their business partners, were highly looking forward to its future. Many said that they will wait for outcomes from Jeju Island as new materials lead to differentiated product competitiveness in the market. Some other companies took the decision as rather surprising.


However, the relocation project of BK Bio, which was the focus of great expectations and curiosity, encountered an unexpected obstacle.


The relocation came when the entire country was in "Jeju fever." People dreamed of enjoying the beautiful landscapes and freedom not found in cities. So many people moved to Jeju, and as new buildings began to be built in parts of the island, it took a month for the city hall to approve BK Bio’s construction plan.


Taking such a social trend into consideration, BK Bio applied for the construction permit 50 days ahead, so that they can take the first shovel within the commencement period set by the Industrial Corporation, their new basecamp. However, they could succeed in passing the document on the last day of the commencement period. Adding fuel to fire, the system went down, and the government employee in charge had to take the document in person to the vice mayor late at night for approval. After going through all the twists and turns, the new headquarters of BK Bio has established itself as it is today. It could only be done with everyone’s will.


CEO Choi Hyuk-Joon and researchers at BK Bio carrying out research.


Jeju, the perfect stepping stone


Moving to Jeju, BK Bio newly established “Bio-Laboratory,” a compound word of laboratory and factory. It is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies that can carry on research and production at the same time, which is suitable for small batch production. Business partners are reacting positively, as they can immediately check the products they have made with new materials. It is also an advantage that they can strengthen their position in the food material development market once a one-stop development process for new products is established in cooperation with universities in Jeju Island.


After the relocation, BK Bio has become one of the representative companies of Jeju Island, being designated as the Small but Strong Local Company in Jeju in 2016, Distinguished Local Company in Jeju in 2019, and Small and Medium-Sized Promising Exporter in 2020. The number of staff increased from 26 to 62, and sales jumped from 9 billion won to 16.7 billion won after the relocation.


Products such as Kaesukang, a hangover drink made with raw ingredients extracted from materials grown in Jeju, and Chilsung Cider Green Tangerine with the added freshness of Citrus Nippokoreana Tanaka, are achievements BK Bio attained in Jeju Island. However, BK Bio is still thirsty. It is continuously taking on challenges in R&D in new fields such as the development of materials that improve immunity, anticancer, and cognitive abilities using Jeju broccoli extract, and clinical trials on body fat reduction materials using components of putgyul, an unripe tangerine.


“We will grow into a company that makes world-class materials by processing Jeju’s resources with eco-friendly methods,” said CEO Choi in confidence. His confidence came from his belief in the raw materials from Jeju that have infinite potential, as well as the R&D capability of BK Bio, and the clear direction of the company aiming for the world.