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Hakhwa Walnut Cookie still beloved by Koreans after 85 years of creationSeeking to venture into Southeast Asia

By Business Editor Sung Jung-wook

The Grandmother Hakhwa Walnut Cookie Company was the first firm in the world to develop walnut cookies in 1934. Shim Bok-sun, widely known as a walnut confectionery grandmother, is the wife of Cho Gwi-geum, the founder of Hakhwa and the first developer of walnut confectionery. The walnut, which was widely cultivated in the Cheonan area, was first produced as walnut cookie in 1934. Its supply was initially limited to Cheonan, but was well-known throughout the country later by for its excellent taste and quality. Now it has become a household name with Cho’s grandchildren engaging in the walnut cookie business today.

Madam Shim Bok-sun, widely known as a walnut confectionery grandmother, is the wife of Cho Gwi-geum, founder of the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie.

The original Hakhwa Walnut Cookie, which has been loved by the entire nation for more than 85 years, is a representative food of the Republic of Korea. It has now developed into a national snack while cultivating the Korean confectionary culture. Hakhwa Walnut Cookie is also popular abroad. “Others may imitate the shape of our products, but they cannot copy our eighty five years of know-how and sincerity embedded in our products,” said a Hakhwa official.

Aiming to be developed into a more valuable company, the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie provides part of the proceeds as scholarships and donates walnut snacks to local welfare centers and nurseries. Hakhwa makes every effort to promote social services and regional development based on the spirit of sharing. The Hakhwa Walnut Cookie is open 24/7 and can be ordered from the website (www.hakhwa1934.com) or by phone (041-552-8596) and delivered on the same day by courier.

Brief History of Hakhwa Walnut Cookie

Oct. 2, 1934 First Cheonan Railroad Station store opened
1979     Main store relocated to Cheonan Bus Terminal
2016     White Anggeum Walnut Cookie developed
Oct. 13, 2017 Corporate entity Hakhwa1934.com established
Oct. 13, 2017 Shinsege Intercity Bus Center store opened inside

Cheonan Intercity Bus Terminal
May 2019   Signed MOU with Pinkro
July 2019   Signed MOU with Cheonan's Hope Workplace for the Disabled

The facade of today’s head office of Hakhwa Walnut Cookie located in the vicinity of the Cheonan Terminal. (2019)

Cho Gui-geum, founder of Hakhwa Walnut Cookie

Cho Gui-geum (1910-1987), founder of Hakhwa, left his hometown of Geumsan when he was nine years old and worked at tailor and barber shops in Daejeon. Later, he got a job at a Japanese snack shop in the city. At the age of 13, the Japanese owner, who had noticed his sincerity, took him to Japan to learn snack technology for about four years.

He has suffered numerous hardships to learn skills from Japanese at an early age. Back in 1933, when he was 18 years old, he was hired as a staff at a Japanese bakery in Cheonan and agonized over making Korea's own snacks to compete with Japanese snacks. He took advantage of the idea of his wife, Shim Bok-sun, and developed a special walnut cake and later became a famous baker in the Orient. The Hakhwa Walnut Cookie, which started in front of Cheonan Station, moved its main store to an area near Cheonan Bus Terminal in 1979 due to the business decline of the station area.

Founder-Chairman Cho Gwi-geum of Hakhwa Walnut Cookie.

Cho Gyeong-chan named CEO of Hakhwa 1934 in 2017

CEO Cho Gyeong-chan, who is a great grandson of Hakhwa founder Cho Gwi-geum, inherited the family business in October 2017, and is running Hakhwa 1934.com. As the family business has been in service for four generations, there is 85 years of deep-rooted history in the Hakhwa. While trying to preserve its tradition, CEO Cho is seeking to introduce management reforms in response to with the rapid changing world.

Seeking to Venture into Southeast Asia

The Hakhwa has a plan to advance into Southeast Asia through production of high-quality walnut cookies. It is attempting to develop traditional unique techniques and plans to expand to Laos, which is at the center of Southeast Asia, and its neighboring countries. Rather than devoted to earning huge profits from overseas advancement, the Hakhwa aims to contribute to the target countries’ industrial development and job creation and contribute to their overall growth. In line with this philosophy.

At the time of creation, the Cheonan Walnut Cookie was so tasty that the Japanese couldn't copy it. They would not buy it at the Japanese snack shop, but they bought the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie. Even now, sometimes Japanese visitors to Korea buy Hakhwa walnut snacks at the request of their acquaintances.

"We will try to use the 85th anniversary of our foundation this year to build a more trusted company in an effort to protect our customers' memories and become a company respected for 100 years and 200 years," said CEO Cho Gyeong-chan.

CEO Cho Gyeong-chan flanked on the right by President Lee In-hee and Business Editor Sung Jung-wook of The Korea Post media.

Birth of Hakhwa Walnut Cookie

Hakhwa founder Cho Gwi-geum observed a variety of ingredients, and came across walnuts, with their high nutritional value and characteristic appearance. He decided to use specialty walnuts from Cheonan, a South Korean city, to come up with a unique snack and name it Walnut Cookie, which continues to this day to be enjoyed throughout Korea.

Hakhwa Walnut Cookie began delivering its products to the Korean railroad workers’ cooperative, an organization that sells snacks and basic items on board trains. This contract allowed the company to gain a nationwide renown, by way of people traveling to and from Seoul and provincial cities. Some travelers boarded their train without appropriate gifts for their family back home, but at Cheonan they were always able to pick up a box of walnut cookie to satisfy their children’s sweet tooth. With such as history in the background, Cheonan has now become the city of walnut cookies for Koreans.

A view of the original store of the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie in 1940.

The snack can now be easily found in highway rest stops throughout South Korea, as well as in stores along the beaten country roads. Korean passion for walnut cookies continue even on congested urban roads, where makeshift stalls on the streets bake and sell the snack for a small sum of cash. The cookies can be found on trains as well.
On the railroads, travelers will come across walnut cookies near Cheonan, the city’s specialty product. The history of walnut cookies on board trains can be traced back to the aftermath of the Korean War, during which trains were the most readily available method of transportation. Walnut cookies must have been the easiest food for consumption, along with gimbap (Korean rice rolls) on crowded carriages.

In those days, there was a line of people in front of the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie store who wanted to buy walnut snacks every day. The walnut cookies, which began to gain popularity in Cheonan, went out to the country, even being delivered to military units under the Kwantung army in Tianjin, Seoju, Guangdong and Shanghai in China. The company is called "Hakhwa Walnut Cookie,” wishing it would radiate like the beautiful crane birds.

Photo shows CEO Cho Gyeong-chan (left) signining an MOU with Cheonan's Hope Workplace for the Disabled in July 2019.

Grandmother Shim Bok-sun (1913-2008)

Grandmother Shim, a devout Christian, considered her walnut cookies as her children, and devoted to maintaining the flavors and renown of Hakhwa Walnut Cookie. That is why she was able to maintain the original quality of Hakhwa Walnut Cookies, with its distinct flavors.

She was also engaged in a great deal of social contributions. She has built more than seven churches by selling walnut snacks and helped countless needy people. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in business administration from Hoseo University on February 23, 2001 in recognition of her great contribution to the advancement of the regional economy. "Who hasn't eaten my homemade walnut?" she loved to say. Today, walnut cookies are loved as a heavenly landmark, thanks to Grandmother Shim's devotion to preserving the original flavors.

Despite her age, Grandmother Shim Bok-sun dressed up and opened her store at seven in the morning and at the counter until nine at night to greet her customers.

Cheonan was home to many Japanese

Because the name of the store had the word for crane, a bird that the Japanese were fond of, the store enjoyed even more popularity. Cho Gui-geum and Grandmother Shim did not open the store just for the Japanese, nor was the recipe from Japan. Rather, Mr. Cho created something distinctly Korean using Japanese interpretation of Western baking techniques.

Because the recipe for his walnut cake required devotion beyond imagination and could not be recreated anywhere else, many Japanese people who moved to Seoul or back to Japan sent people back to Cheonan to buy Hakhwa Walnut Cookies. To this day, customers walk into the store to pick up walnut cookies for their Japanese friends who miss the taste.

Funny things occasionally happen at Walnut Cookie store.

Sometimes people would wait outside of the store to buy walnut cookies. People looking to buy train tickets, however, often think the line to the store is the line to the ticket booth, only to find delicious smells at the end. One day, a panicked customer who bought a box of cookies came into the store, and told the staff that her child, who was waiting in the station while she was buying the cookie, was gone. The employees gave up their work to look for the child with the woman, which caused losses for the store. Thankfully, the child was found, and he grew up to be a graduate student who sometimes comes back to the store to laugh about the day with the employees who remember.

CEO Cho Gyeong-chan (6th from left, front row) and members of the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie pose at a ceremony in celebration of the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie in 2019.

Social Contribution

Building Churches
“Rather than building a big church, we try to build a church in a remote village where we cannot worship and pray because there is no church. That's my remaining wish," said Grandmother Shim Bok-sun once.

Even King David, who was the greatest and most honorable ruler of Israel, enjoyed God's blessing and grace all his life, but he was not allowed to build a temple of the lord. It is natural, then, that Grandmother Shim has been infinitely grateful for the opportunity to build more than seven churches, granted to a meek local baker.

In her eighty years of business making walnut cookies, Shim Bok-sun always included evangelical pamphlets in her products. Despite the high cost of printing out the materials, Grandmother Shim did not grudge because she believed it was for the lord. Many customers came back to her saying that they began attending church after reading her materials. Although the grandmother cannot engage in missionary work because of her busy schedule, she dedicated herself to the lord’s cause by doing what she can at her workplace to please Him.

Joongbu University's Landscape Scholarship
The Landscape Scholarship was established at Joongbu University with the aim of nurturing leading figures in landscape and plant preservation that are beneficial to the nation. While she did not contribute much, she assumed the post of chairman of the scholarship committee, because she had a strong affinity for the study of landscape architecture, which involved nature, various trees and plants given by God. She had a small wish to benefit the students who seek to cultivate the country’s beautiful natural environments.

Hope in Juvenile Prison
There was once in a while a juvenile prison where Chosil (the baptismal name of Shim Bok-sun) visited. She took a small new drug with a coupon and told the poor juveniles to raise their hands if anyone needed it. At first, only about 10 raised their hands. Chosil told the story of Joseph, who served God well and became Prime Minister, while he was put in prison. Chosil found their faces became very bright. The youngest boy, who sat in front of them, cried his eyes out and made her heart ache more. Quite a few of them went to the Sunday school, but Chosil bought 100 copies of the Bible for them.

A book entitled, I Am Happier Than King David, written by the late Madam Shim Bok-sun, founder of the company, was published in 1998.

First Book

Grandmother Shim Bok-sun published “I am Happier Than King David,” a collection of testimony of faith, in 1998. She has lived a busier life after the publication.

Publication Event

On May 23, 1996, Shim Bok-sun attended en event to commemorate the publication of her book, a first religious autobiography. She went to the Centennial Hall of Korean Christianity early in the morning along with her church friends on the bus. The event was held by dividing the first part into thank-you services and the second part into congratulations and sharing. He received cordial gifts and congratulations from many people. She tried to make a joke that would make the audience laugh with her sincere words of gratitude, but she apparently felt so nervous that she was unsuccessful.

Enjoying Walnut Cookie

Hakhwa Walnut Cookie does not use chemical preservatives, but its high level of purity prevents it from going bad easily. If your cookies hardened in room temperature, they can be soaked in milk, which can enhance the flavors. Make sure to refrigerate leftover cookies, and freeze them if you are storing them for a long time. Microwaving the refrigerated or frozen cookies will bring back its original taste.

Hakhwa Walnut Cookie is made from a batter with flour, eggs, water, milk, and sugar syrup mixed into it. The paste filling is cooked with carefully assorted red and white adzuki beans that are peeled and ground repeatedly. The high level of the paste’s purity prevents the filling from going bad even after ten days. Hakhwa Walnut Cookie owes its popularity to large walnut chunks in the filling, as well as a smooth texture that is not overly sweet. Walnut is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and contains protein, vitamin B1 and B2, as well as other beneficial nutrients, which further expanded its popularity from foreign tourists, especially from Japan.

Walnut Cookies from the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie.

In Conclusion
We live in a rapidly changing world, but sometimes it is good not to change. In this busy age, there are some things you shouldn't miss, sometimes looking around slowly. The warm hearts of the mother, the affection of the family, and the longing for home are some of them.

Hakhwa Walnut Cookie is a “surprising” snack that my father bought for his family on a business trip, and when we were not rich in food, we shared it with our friends on our way to school. Now the Hakhwa Walnut Cookie store has become a memorable place where the grandmother and grandfather visit along with their grandchildren. Hakhwa Walnut Cookie will be kept in the customer's mind for a long time.

Walnut Snacks Customers Across the Globe!

Grandmother Hakhwa Walnut Cookie has been loved by the whole nation for over 85 years and has developed into a national snack since it played a pivotal role in nurturing the Korean bakery culture. Now, it promises to become a global walnut snack that is loved by more and more people beyond Korea.

Sung Jung-wook  edt@koreapost.com

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