Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province is filled with signs informing visitors that it is the ginseng-cultivation hub of Korea. The Punggi area in particular has been growing the medicinal root for hundreds of years.Ginseng should be grown in optimum climactic and soil conditions, which is why Punggi's ginseng is valued more highly than roots grown elsewhere. This includes a latitude between 36 to 38 degrees, which gives Punggi 50 to 60 more days of the year than other areas to grow ginseng and makes it superior to its rivals' in terms of texture and scent.
Ginseng is sold in different forms there -- fresh right after harvesting, white ginseng following four years of drying, and red ginseng after repeated steaming and drying. Red ginseng contains higher amounts of saponin, which decreases blood lipids, lowers cancer risks, and reduces blood sugar.There are around 1,000 merchants selling ginseng in Yeongju, including a cooperative of farmers.Kim Woo-gyo, a spokesman for the city, said, "Ginseng is harvested here from late October, about a month later than other areas, which makes it more fully ripe." Kim added that ginseng can help fortify the immune system, which is vital in fighting COVID-19.
A ginseng expo is being held in Yeongju from Friday until Oct. 23. The city spent the last five years to make this year's event the starting point for the global expansion of Korean indigenous ginseng.The expo offers various events including classes that teach visitors how to treat ginseng and make liquor, desserts, soap and cosmetics using the root.Yeongju Mayor Park Nam-seo said, "This expo will be the first step to promote the city as the biggest cultivation hub for ginseng in Korea."