Amid the well-being trend and the rise of conscious consumerism, urban apiaries have started mushrooming in Korea as people seek different and eco-friendly ways of spending.
Instead of buying branded honey which is rich in sugar ― business insiders secretly admit that some bees are fed sugar for cost efficiency ― Koreans have started installing beehives on rooftops to attract wandering bees in the bustling city center and give them some honey.
Park Jin, head of Urban Bees Seoul, and Fraser Doherty, founder of SuperJam and SuperHoney, are leading the trend here.
Park Jin (left), head of Urban Bees Seoul, and Super Jam founder Fraser Doherty speak at a chat show. Super Jam Korea
The two are collaborating on producing and distributing SuperHoney in Korea.
Park’s social enterprise supplies the raw honey and Doherty, who already runs a successful brand SuperHoney in Scotland, sells it in Korea.
SuperHoney is sold in select spots at 39,000 won for a 350 gram-jar, which contains honey as well as a small part of the honey comb. About 300 kilograms of honey from the beehives in downtown Seoul were sold this year, and Park expects to harvest more than 750 kilograms next year, thanks to more corporates and citizens’ showing interest in urban beekeeping.
“People may think that honey from downtown Seoul will be polluted but I say it’s the opposite,” Park said.
‘While farmlands in rural areas are more hazardous because of pesticides, in Seoul it is almost pesticide-free. The pollutants are distilled inside the bees’ bodies, so the honey is pretty much pure,” he added. In fact honey harvested from urban beehives passed the Seoul municipal authorities’ pollutant test.
Urban Bees Seoul has about 120 members who bought beehives from the social enterprise then installed them at places near the greens. Urban Bees Seoul also manages the facility and supports the harvest of the honey ― which usually takes a year from the installation to the harvest.
Some of the most notable places include the UNESCO building in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, Seoul National University, Soongsil University and others. More companies, such as the French cosmetics brand Clarins, have participated in the apiary activities this year.
Doherty, who has already seen substantial success with his natural ingredient-based Super Jam and then again with SuperHoney launched in 2014, said Seoul is a challenge given that there are not a lot of greens, and more tall concrete buildings.
‘To be honest, in Scotland things are very different. But we are seeing a lot of potential in Seoul. I think once you win the approval of the neighborhood you can install the beehive at residences,” he said.
Both Park and Doherty noted that the greater mission of the urban apiary is to keep the ecosystem as natural as it is.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report states that one-third of agricultural products including fruits rely on pollination by bees. Korea’s Rural Development Administration also reports that honeybees were named the third most valuable resources following cows and pigs in Europe.
“Bees are an essential part of the eco system and urban beekeeping is important to keep humans healthy in the city center. Therefore, it is more than producing honey for the sake of business,” Doherty said.
Urban Bees Seoul has been splitting time between honey-making and beehive installment. “Raising public awareness on the ecosystem around us, campaigning to keep more greens around us by having honeybees is what we are aiming for,” Park said.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)