Tuesday 26 November 2019
A bus picked us up from the Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul and drove us the 6kms to the Suseo station. There are two high speed train operators in Korea, which I had discovered on a previous visit when I turned up at the wrong station. This time its all organised by the staff at Royal Canin, eliminating any Roger mistakes.
I have been invited along on a field visit by Stan and his Korean Royal Canin team. This is a big chance to see just what Sylvia does in her life as the Asia Pacific boss. Bang on time the train begins its journey south. Out come laptops as the entourage of 12 put their heads to work for the 2 plus hours to Busan. I spark up the speed app on my phone to see how fast we are going but as with most apps of this type they only work a few times then want money! It’s really hot in the train and looking around over half the passengers are asleep.
Arriving at the main station in Busan a bus branded “VIP Royal Canin” picks us up for a short journey to a traditional restaurant where we enjoyed a great lunch of don katsu (pork cutlets) along with some other very tasty dishes including kimchee. After lunch we headed over to Our worst Veterinary clinic. This place is impressive with play areas for the pets to come if they are feeling stressed out, full medical and post op areas for both pets and owners. It was the first vet clinic in Korea to be awarded cat friendly status. The team look around as i tag along in the background taking the odd photo and trying not to get in the way. The retail area is well-stocked with Royal Canin products. A very dominant, “don’t touch me” cat commands the counter.
Back on the bus, a short journey across town takes us to a dog and cat selling business. We are greeted by a number of cute, free-ranging dogs that seemed to have the run of the place. Sylvia is presented a nice bunch of flowers prior to the tour of the premises with lots of rooms and an array of dogs and cats I had never seen before. This business sells about 200 puppies and kittens per month and rehomes another 70 or so rescued animals. One fluffy cat is undergoing a blow dry and grooming on a table in a room full of sleeping dogs. The staff here, as in the last place, are very friendly and pleased to welcome the team from Royal Canin.
Across town a little further and we entered another Animal Medical centre. Now if you have a broken dog or cat this has to be the place to bring it. This time we are welcomed by a dominant dog behind the counter just checking us out with a loud bark to make sure we were not a threat to any of the animal patients. This place is really well equiped with an operating theatre that looked like something from the latest ER show, a large cat scanner (yes it does dogs to) and in the room next to that a new MRI machine. Apparently it is quite unusual for an animal medical centre to have such state of the art equipment, especially in a small city like this. With a recovery and post op area this place takes good care of any sick or broken pets.
The visiting over for the day we headed to the Paradise hotel. Surrounded by armed police, with bag scanners in the foyer and several military ships anchored offshore one could have been led to believe they take these Sylvia visits quite seriously. Fortunately that is not the case – it just happens that there is an ASEAN conference on in town.
After checking in we were back on the bus and down to the local marina, where we embarked onto a 45′ launch for a tour of the harbour. Because of the ASEAN conference we were a bit restricted as to where we could go. The skipper took us under the double deck motorway on high piles with a suspension bridge spanning the main ship entrance to the middle of the harbour. There we enjoyed a chat and a few refreshments as the sun went down and the city lit up with is vast array of night lights. The crew man strapped a bunch of fireworks together, stood on the bow and fired them off before we headed back to shore.
Next stop was a Korean BBQ restaurant (some of my favourite food). Here we gathered around a couple of low tables, sitting on the floor. The waiter brought out a tray with many dishes on it including salad, kimchee and various pickles. I thought we must be sharing this until one was placed in front of each of us. Next arrived four buckets of burning charcoal which were placed in the holes in the table. Raw beef ribs arrived and were cooked on the top of the charcoal holder. After we had gorged on beef there were noodles and then a Korean style soup. We had a great time chatting and laughing while Sylvia, Dan and I quizzed the locals on how they could possibly eat so much, especially as they are all so slim. They then went on to say that after this they were going out for fried chicken and beer. After dinner we all strolled back to the hotel. Sylvia and i headed up to our room while the local team headed off for the aforementioned fried chicken and beer!!
Wednesday 27 November 2019
Back on the bus we headed northeast to Deokseon to visit the local RC distributer. They occupy a medium-sized warehouse and have a number of small trucks to distribute the cat and dog products to the shops, vets and breeders in the Busan area. Here too they had a cute dog that had the run of the place in its RC logo clothing.
Heading back towards the city we stopped at A pet shop where the team examined this well-presented and well-stocked pet shop. It was here I had an interesting conversation with Dan (Regional Sales and Marketing) and Sylvia about marketing of products. I asked the question “is there a large english-speaking population in this part of Korea?” as many of the products had english writing on the front of the packaging. Here in Korea the regulations state that a local manufacturer must label the front of the product in Korean. Dan explained that here even though most people don’t read english they believe that if it has english writing on the packaging then it is of a higher quality so some Korean manufactures are flouting the rules and labelling mostly in english with the instructions etc in Korean on the back or side of the packets. Dan then went on to explain how now in western markets people are looking for packaging with asian writing on them as they think it’s more natural especially with what is brown packaging with the recycle sign on it. Sylvia then went on to point out “just because it has the recycle mark on it doesn’t mean everyone can recycle the packaging as some so called recyclable material needs special plant to process it, which most places don’t have. This is a major challenge that many manufacturers, including Royal Canin are working to address.
RC has a policy of making sure they get it right not only regarding the precise nutrition for the pets but also to ensure that they meet all the rules and regulations in each market.
Next stop was the Headong Yonggung Temple, where despite the fried chicken and beer last night the woman all raced to the local stalls to grab some of the local delicacies as we made our way past the stalls and the statues of the Zodiac to the temple, which is situated on the hill above the sea, making for a pretty stunning location. Interestingly here there is a place where you can buy a little statue which has a wish on it and place it on the rocks. Joy pointed out that most of the wishes were for a good education.
We visited a lovely Italian restaurant our final stop before heading back to the train station. Here the bus driver deserves a mention; not only had she guided the bus through the many narrow streets with great skill but at the restaurant we headed down a narrow lane for several hundred meters the wrong way and she was not even slightly fazed as she backed the bus all the way back, casually glancing from mirror to mirror.
A big thanks to Stan and the Korean team for inviting me along for what was a very enjoyable experience.