The success and the popularity of instant noodle (ramyun) in South Korea


Master's Thesis, 2018

70 Pages


Free online reading

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

List of Tables

List of Figures

Abbreviation

Abstract

1. Introduction
1.1 The history of Instant Noodle: Noodle to Instant Noodle
1.2. Research Aim and Questions
1.2.1. Research Aim
1.2.2. Research Questions
1.3. Outline

2. Define ‘Instant Noodle’, Culture & Instant Noodle: Literature Review
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Literature Review
2.2.1. Solt’s Instant noodle
2.2.2. Granitsas, Cohen and Dhume’s instant noodle
2.2.3. Chan and Fung’s instant noodle
2.2.4. Han’s ramyun

3. Korean culture: Behaviour & Culinary heritage
3.1. Ppali ppali (hurry hurry) Culture
3.2. Spicy Flavour and Soup in Korean Food Culture
3.2.1. Chilli and Spicy Flavour
3.2.2. Guk, Jjigae, Tang – Soup Dishes in Korean Food
3.3. Summary

4. Policy and Promotion of Ramyun in Korea
4.1. The Development of Ramyun in Korea
4.2. Ramyun in Korean Policy from the 1960s to Today
4.2.1. Classification and Food Safety of Ramyun
4.2.2. Price of Ramyun
4.2.3. Change of food consumption habits
4.3. Ramyun advertisement – Marketing strategy
4.3.1. From 1963 to 1980s
4.3.2. From 1990s to the present
4.4. Summary

5. Korean Consumers and Ramyun
5.1. Korean society in Inglehart-Welzel’s Cultural Map
5.2. Change of demographic feature and Food consumption pattern
5.2.1. Increasing Single household
5.2.2. Change of Food Consumption Behaviour and Purchase Pattern
5.2.3. Consumer Demand on Healthy & Premium Food
5.3. Summary

6. Conclusion
6.1. Summary and Discussion of Findings
6.2. Further research

Reference

Appendix
Appendix 1: Contents of Instant noodle
Appendix 2: Instant noodle processing
Appendix 3: MSG Negative marketing advertisement
Appendix 4: Entertainer celebrities in ramyun advertisement and package

Acknowledgements

This thesis is a story, started from my small curiosity on my favourite food ‘Ramyun’. Although the journey to complete this academic piece was short, this thesis could not have been completed without the help of people around me. This section is for those who have supported my short journey in UNSW until the completion of this thesis (and certainly after this time as well). Here I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to those supported my short journey.

I would like to convey my deepest appreciation to my supervisor, Dr Katrina Moore for her great support and motivations making this short journey successful. Her advice and support have been a huge motivation and makes me dreaming bigger future. My thanks also goes to Prof Marc Williams helped me to frame my thesis by consultation, and Dr Kim Spurway for her great help and concern for the entire course with several consultation.

I thank my friends for their time, concerns and supports to make this short journey possible. I am sincerely grateful by their great supports in Sydney and I do really wish their journey in UNSW or even in the future the greatest and brightest.

At last but definitely not the least, I am deeply indebted to my beloved family who has been working with me and provided unconditional support to achieve my dream. Without your understanding and support, this thesis would not able to be completed. I am really blessed and sincerely thankful for your support.

List of Tables

Table 1: Difference between Korean Ramyun and Japanese Ramen

Table 2: Price of Samyang ramyun in Korean Supermarkets (per one package)

Table 3: Ramyun brand slogan by products (as of 12th September 2018)

Table 4: Korean cultural values in Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map

Table 5. Timeline of Ramyun Development since 2000

Table 6. Analysis of Premium Ramyun

List of Figures

Figure 1-3: Displayed image of ramyun by major ramyun manufacturers

Figure 4: Samyang ramyun newspaper advertisement in 1963

Figure 5-10: Ottogi Jin Ramyun Advertisements and Campaigns

Figure 11: Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map 2017

Figure 12: Demographic Feature of Single Household in Korea

Abbreviation

aT Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation

aTFIS Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation Food

Information Statistics System

BMI Body mass index

CPI Consumer Price Index

HACCP Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point

HMR Home meal replacement

PB Private Brand

PL Public Law

MSG Monosodium Glutamate

R&D Research and Development

RTC Ready to cook

RTE Ready to eat

RTH Ready to heat

RTP Ready to prepare

SHU Scoville heat unit

UN The United Nations

US The United States of America

TV Television

Abstract

Noodles have been a major food in the Asian diet and re-invented as instant noodles in 1958 in Japan. Korea1 is as a major instant noodle consuming country, and Ramyun (Korean instant noodle) has been Korean’s favourite food since its birth in 1963. Ramyun has achieved remarkable success in domestic markets and made an incredible debut in the global food market. This study is to explore the popularity of Ramyun in Korea. Korean’s infatuation with their instant noodle may not only be due to technological advancement but also socio-cultural influence. In this context, ppali ppali (hurry hurry) culture, Korean culinary culture and contemporary consumption behaviour will be examined in order to investigate the popularity of Ramyun in Korea. Attention is also given to the history, marketing and government policy of Ramyun in Korea in order to understand the socio-economic background of Ramyun in Korea. Furthermore, the range of Ramyun in Korea will be explained to explore the present development of the Ramyun range and trend in Korea according to the increasing demand of Ramyun.

Keywords: Instant noodle, Korea, Ramyun, Food culture, Food consumption

1. Introduction

1.1 The history of Instant Noodle: Noodle to Instant Noodle

There is still an ongoing debate into the origin of noodles, whether they originated from China, Italy or the Middle East. Recently, the discovery of 4,000-year-old millet noodle in northwest China in 2005 finally claims China as the first-inventor of noodles (Lu et al. 2005). Despite the discovery of the world’s earliest noodle, the origin of the noodle is still debatable. The noodle, with its thin and lengthy shape made of rice and wheat grains, have been a staple food of human beings. From linguini, spaghetti, itriyya (Arabian thin dried pasta), pan-mee (thick rice or flour noodle), bee-hoon (rice vermicelli), glass noodles to the Udon noodle, I believe the varieties of noodles are almost impossible to count due to its development in different regions and culture. To differentiate the features of Asian noodles and Western noodles is comparing the ingredients and process of making the noodles. Asian noodles are mainly made from rice and (buck)wheat flour, arrowroot and mung bean starch (Allerton 2010) mixed with salt and water to make a noodle dough, then process sheeting. However, Western pasta products are made from durum semolina, mixed with water for a dough and conduct extrusion process (Hou 2010: ix). It can be assumed that the ingredients of noodles are similar to the grain consumption and production of the region. Rice has been a staple food of Asians, and the region produces more than half the global rice production. Owing to its monsoon climate and topography such as delta, wet rice valley allowing various rice cultivation (Inkster 1988) somewhat allowed rice to be used as an ingredient for noodles. Apart from the ingredients and the manufacturing process, Asian noodles are often a soup-type dish while Western pastas are served with sauce (Hou 2010: ix). Like other products, noodles have been spread worldwide through trading, adopting and further developing its ingredients and culinary culture to the regional environment like Asian rice consumption and production have contributed to the use of rice in noodle-making. Industrialization and globalization have allowed further development of noodles using advanced technology which enables massive farming, industrial food supply chain (Lang 2003) and food transportation. Momofuku Ando, whose family were Taiwanese immigrants to Japan (his Taiwanese name was “Pek-hok Go” before he changed his name to Japanese name) (Kinney et al. 2013: 25), invented instant noodles which can be perceived as the revolution of noodle culinary culture and cuisine2. The Chinese dish Lamian (salty broth noodle soup) is the origin of ramen introduced by Chinese migrants to Japan in the early 1900s. Then ramen shops were rapidly established after World War II as Japanese soldiers returned from China with an appreciation of Chinese Lamian in 1945 (Benton 2015). Ando’s instant noodle was somewhat a revolution as it made preparation simpler and faster cooking. Colquhoun and Wroe (2008: 8-9) describe Ando’s invention as a ‘night in the shed’ experiment which took a year to transform noodles to be the instant noodles of today by flash-frying the cooked noodles in palm oil. Although instant noodle production costs six times higher than fresh noodles due to high technology and machinery for manufacturing, Ando’s instant noodle successfully sold 13 million bags, and he then came up with cup noodles in 1971 in heat-proof bowls (Colquhoun and Wroe 2008: 9). The presence of instant noodles is indeed an innovative invention of noodles in a long journey of noodle development.

Based on the understandings of instant noodles, I define instant noodles as a great ‘trend-flow cultural invention’. ‘Trend’ is defined as behaviour or general direction or tendency or something that is developing, changing and becoming common (Oxford Dictionaries 2010; Merriam-Webster 2016) formed with followers until it becomes out-dated (Cheng and Huang 2010). ‘Cultural invention’ is a pattern, thing or any form that is modified and newly constructed to serve a new function or principles (Barnett 1942). By understanding the dynamic transition of instant noodles from noodle to instant noodle by adopting or keeping up with the flow, such as new technology and transition of the culture in the society, instant noodles are a cultural invention product followed by trend flow. Indeed, it reflected the cultural and social development, albeit globalisation3, which led to changes in the food consumption behaviour of people by encouraging the pursuit of faster preparation and ready-to-eat meals through social change and development. Instant noodles are now a global food with huge consumption by people worldwide (Hou 2010: ix). Asia is the highest instant noodle consuming region (WINA 2018). As Korea is a global leading instant noodle manufacturer and consumer, I question how and what makes Ramyun’s current popularity in Korea despite it being a foreign-originated food; and further, I propose that its success links to cultural, social and economic contexts.

I believe all consequences are the product of multidimensional factors; however, this thesis focalises the implication of culture at most to explain the popularity of the product. Scholars have defined culture as “… complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Tylor 1871: 1); “… learned [and] accumulated experience … characteristic of a particular social group (Keesing 1981: 68) which interprets culture as a particular phenomenon and things of human beings (White 1959). Whilst it was associated with defining particular ethnic or national terms in the past, it is now defined as a social transmission of knowledge and behaviour shared by a group of people (Bailey and Peoples 1998: 23) by reciprocal or multilateral exchange followed by the expansion of globalisation which blurred boundaries and brought interaction among culture. Culture then became a productive force as it engenders products and insights influence economy and society (Fellner 2008). Furthermore it emphasised an understanding of culture as pivotal to explain the economy and social phenomenon.

I acknowledge that Koreans do have distinctive speedy culture to encourage work and things to be completed in ppali ppali (hurry hurry), and I believe that such speed-pursuit culture and quick cooking preparation of instant noodles has some commonality as both pursues ‘rapid/fast speed’. Korea’s obsession with spicy chilli (Tudor 2014: 26) is also well presented in Ramyun. It is also imperative to explore social and economic contexts in order to study culture as it is a complex concept not only influencing but also highly reflected by economy and society. This research will also look at Korean consumption behaviour patterns followed by the rapid increase of the single household; marketing of Ramyun; government food policy or subsidies; and the current trend and range of Ramyun in order to investigate the links between socio-economic factors and the popularity of Ramyun in Korea. Consumption is an important context for this thesis as it is described as the fulcrum in explaining culture, lifestyle and transformation of individuals and society (Bell 1978: 293). Consumer culture4 then became a definition of cultural ideology of consumption (Featherstone 1991: 113), which has been influenced by and influences the cultural flow of society. Thus, consumption provides an insight to explain the significance of culture and all socio-economic factors in order to investigate the popularity and success of Ramyun as a cultural product.

The research aims and objectives explained shortly in the next section with observation of research gaps in the literature regarding instant noodles. This research is primarily shaped by my enthusiasm for Korean instant noodles, influenced by my previous working experience as a Korean food retailer and trader, and the ensuing interests and experiences until today that are felt in this research entirety.

1.2. Research Aim and Questions

1.2.1. Research Aim

Instant noodles are the focus of this research, particularly the Korean instant noodle, ‘Ramyun’. I have always been fascinated by how a sachet of soup powder, vegetable or meat or seafood flakes and fried firm noodle (see Appendix 1) can make such flavourful taste5. I was already familiar with instant noodles as I grew up and lived in Korea and Southeast Asia; and instant noodles have been one of the foods I’ve loved to eat in my life. I was curious to know why Koreans have a particular obsession with Ramyun than any other country; why there are so many instant noodles in Korea; how did Ramyun achieve huge success in Korea; and what has contributed to the popularity of Ramyun.

Instant noodles, although a recent food product invented in the late 20th century, have gained great attention from researchers as numerous numbers of academic articles and readings explain. However, most research highlights the negative nutritious facts of instant noodles. Owing to their high sodium content (Wang et al. 2011; The George Institute for Global Health 2016), high fat and oil (Gulia et al. 2014), and high calories, frequent consumption of instant noodles is highly associated with health risk factors such as metabolic syndrome in women (Shin et al. 2014), hyperglycaemia (Yeon and Bae 2016), cardiovascular disease (Farrand et al. 2017), cardio-metabolic syndrome (Huh et al. 2017), nutrition imbalance (Park et al. 2011) and many other diseases as several research have identified in their research.

While scholars have made clear emphasis on the health risk of instant noodles, the consumption of instant noodles is rapidly growing. In addition, the instant noodle market is growing steadily in the global food market as the market is expected to cross $55 billion by 2023 (IMARC Group 2018). There have also been countless numbers of instant noodles which have been introduced due to its huge popularity.

Thus, I assume that there should be great factors contributing to the popularity of instant noodles in Korea. Here, I argue that Ramyun can be studied as a culturally significant phenomenon. This research endeavours to find the cultural, economic and social influence towards the popularity of Ramyun domestically. The following are the research questions and objectives.

1.2.2. Research Questions

1) How are instant noodles defined in the society?

This question is addressed to understand the definition of the main focus of this research. It is crucial to understand the symbolic meaning and perception of instant noodles; thus defining instant noodles is an important process in order to have a good understanding of the context. As identified in the previous section, instant noodles are perceived as an innovative food product created by the increasing demand for easy and quick meals followed by social transformation, brought on by globalisation. This question will address the perception of instant noodles in the society; how instant noodles have been consumed by consumers, transformed, delivered and spread to worldwide via a literature review.

2) What makes Ramyun popular in Korea? In what contexts did culture contribute to the popularity and development of Ramyun?

This is to investigate the implication of multidimensional factors to the success and popularity of instant noodles in Korea. As the gap of research identified in the previous section, most research has recognised instant noodles to have high health risk factors and people have been encouraged to reduce their consumption of instant noodles in a consideration of health. Despite such health disadvantage and associated concerns, instant noodles are still popular and highly consumed by the public worldwide which aroused my curiosity about the present popularity and success of instant noodles. Korea is the highest Ramyun consuming country worldwide (per person), and considering instant noodles are a foreign-oriented food product, I question here how Ramyun could be so popular; why and what makes the popularity and consumption of Ramyun in Korea. Behaviour, culinary, consumption culture will be visited in order to answer this question in Chapter three to five.

1.3. Outline

The first chapter of this thesis has provided a brief summary of this thesis. This chapter has also explained the primary interest of this thesis by explaining a brief history of instant noodles. The importance of culture was identified in the introduction, as instant noodles have been invented and developed by the significant influence of culture and its flow. This chapter introduced the research aims and questions, and the gaps in academic readings in instant noodles were explained which indicates the significance of this research.

The second chapter of this thesis consists of a literature review and defines ‘instant noodles’ in the cultural context. This chapter is to understand the background of instant noodles, prior to studying Ramyun. I acknowledge that it is important to understand the origin of the product, the features and status in the society. This chapter provides an explanation and analysis of instant noodles and Ramyun from the existing literature.

The third chapter discusses the cultural links between Korean culture and Ramyun. It first gives attention to Korean behavioural culture, the ppali ppali (hurry hurry) culture. It provides the features of such culture in a link to the history of Korea in the past. Then it moves to focus on similarities between such culture and Ramyun in order to understand the contribution of such similarities towards the popularity of Ramyun in Korea. This chapter also looks at Korean culinary heritage, with a focus on spiciness and soup and identifies the influence of culture into Ramyun.

The fourth chapter mainly identifies Ramyun in the context of government policy and marketing. Here, I discuss the implication of culture in policy and marketing, and examine those influences regarding the popularity of Ramyun. My argument in this chapter is that government policy is a predominant factor to make the price of Ramyun inexpensive, and marketing encourages the public to purchase Ramyun. Both play significant roles in explaining the popularity and huge amount of Ramyun consumption of Koreans.

The fifth chapter draws on the Korean lifestyle, particularly in demographic facts & food consumption behaviour. To assess the cultural characteristics of Korean society, the interpretation of Korea by Inglehart-Welzel’s cultural map is briefly explained. The changes of demographic feature and food consumption patterns in Korea are explained and identify the implication of globalization and cultural exchange in this chapter. I argue that such demographic changes increase the consumption of Ramyun in Korea in this chapter. Globalisation and the increasing number of working population contributed to the surge of single households and increase the demand for convenient and cheap food for single households which contributes to the increasing popularity of Ramyun. Ramyun seems to satisfy the demand as it is single-packed, affordable, convenient and a quick meal. The current trend of Ramyun is visited in this chapter to support the continuous development and great popularity of Ramyun in Korea.

The final chapter concludes the thesis by analysing Ramyun in Korea as discussed in the previous chapters to demonstrate the implication of culture for the popularity of Ramyun and addresses the elements for future research.

2. Define ‘Instant Noodle’, Culture & Instant Noodle: Literature Review

2.1. Introduction

As mentioned in the previous chapter, noodles have been a staple food in the history of human beings, further developed and spread throughout the adaptation of local environment as identified by differences of noodle ingredients, noodle making-process and recipe between Asian and Western regions. Ando’s instant noodle is an invention which is significantly influenced by multidimensional factors and has spread, developed and become a global food. This 20th century invention brought changes in the fast food industry and global eating habits (Zhao 2005). The consumption of instant noodles is marked as the most popular fast food worldwide despite the overflow of the fast food market (Ray 2012) owing to its flavour, convenience of preparation and cooking, long shelf-life, and reasonable price (Gulia et al. 2014). Since the invention of instant noodles in 1958, it has garnered scholars’ attention to consider the perception and figure out the factors in the success of instant noodles. This chapter discusses the definition of instant noodles in the cultural context by identifying the perception and development of instant noodles.

2.2. Literature Review

2.2.1. Solt’s Instant noodle

Solt’s article shows the transition of the perception of instant noodles in Japan by explaining the history, marketing and development of instant noodles in Japan. He comprehends instant noodles as a frontier of food technology, marketing and a vanguard of dietary pattern changes in Japan. The popularisation of instant noodles is greatly benefited by the timely help of Japan’s high economic growth era in the 1960s (Solt 2012: 15). As Solt illustrates, the popularisation of instant noodles in Japan is heavily dependent on the general social transformation such as housing, retail and environment; and also the effective use of mass media to turn audiences into consumers (Solt 2012: 15-16). The influence of globalisation and its contribution to the expansion of mass media should not be ignored in this context. The media advertisement of Ando’s Nissin Foods Corporation rendered great services to the popularity of instant noodle as it successfully gained attention from the public.

The advertisements of Nissin Chikin instant ramen highlight convenience, healthy, hygienic and good taste in the frontline of their media advertisement (Solt 2012: 16). By taking benefits from the mass media segmentation, Nissin instant noodle became a beloved-food of various consumer groups. And the perception of instant noodles has been framed throughout the different media advertisements of the products. Instant noodles are also perceived as a representation of Japanese-ness by the blend of Japanese cuisine into the instant noodle flavour and also the emphasis of Japanese-themed advertisements by instant noodle manufacturers (Solt 2012: 20).

The affordability of instant noodles is identified in several written media materials as the price of instant noodles was compared to the price of fresh noodle dishes in food stalls (Solt 2012: 26). Convenience of food preparation and cooking were observed as an advantage of instant noodles to consumers as well. Instant noodles were, therefore, perceived as the ‘rationalisation of everyday life’ in Japan (Solt 2012: 15, 26, 28). The mention of consuming instant noodles and the compliments given by politicians and celebrities presented a strong endorsement of instant noodles to the public. The increasing popularity of instant noodles, however, raised concerns on health issues, safety and convenience of instant noodles. Such concerns were the outbreak of shifting perceptions of instant noodles in Japan as it presumably displaces the perception.

Solt acknowledges that the popularisation of instant noodles in Japan is not solely a result of instant noodles’ advanced technology and innovation but a success accompanied by globalisation, media and marketing strategy. The success of instant noodles is also benefited by time and social transformations in which the feature of instant noodles satisfies the demands of consumers during the period. Although Solt’s article only focuses on a certain time period, it clearly signifies instant noodles as a cultural product whose perception and features have developed and been continuously reshaped by culture, society and people.

2.2.2. Granitsas, Cohen and Dhume’s instant noodle

Granitas, Cohen and Dhume see instant noodles as a modern innovation which consists of an increasing demand in the global food market. Instant noodles have not always been a food favoured by the public despite its convenience and affordable price. In fact, the sales of instant noodles have declined after peaking at 1 billion packs per year in the 1970s (Granitsas et al. 2003: 42). They claim the present success of instant noodles could not be achieved without innovation. Innovation introduced assorted instant noodle flavours and bowl-container noodles (Granitsas et al. 2003: 42) which successfully enticed consumers. The authors assert that such innovation catalyses the expansion of instant noodles in the global market and established a huge food industry of instant noodles by its advanced technology and emerging consumer trend in the society.

The understanding of culture and its flow are identified as significant in order to survive in the competitive instant noodle market. Examples of instant noodle manufacturing corporations such as Vietnamese Thien Huong achieved huge success with its instant noodle products after the launch of Korean kimchi, seafood and chicken noodles upon the popularity of Korean culture in Vietnam; and Indonesian Alhami became a competitor in the Indonesian instant noodle market by obtaining Halal certification in order to embrace an Islamic culture and image of Muslim consumers who consist of the majority of the population in Indonesia (Granitsas et al. 2003: 43). The authors show how instant noodles have been developed in the global era and emphasise the use of culture to overcome the market pressure and the role of culture for the success of instant noodles in the market.

2.2.3. Chan and Fung’s instant noodle

Chan and Fung see instant noodles as a product of the East referring to “dehydrated noodles that come in packs, cups or bowls with powdered flavouring which can be served with a soup base within several minutes (Chan and Fung 1994: 7)”. The perception and factors of the popularity of instant noodles in the West were investigated by the survey. The authors claim that the popularity of instant noodles in the West is also highly affected by cultural factors such as lifestyle and food.

From the survey of consumer behaviour towards instant noodle and its perception, there were differences among people in Hong Kong, London and Vancouver. And this summary identifies that each consumer group has a predominant consideration prior to the purchase of instant noodles. While brand reputation and promotion were the predominant factors affecting the purchase of instant noodles for Hong Kong people (Chan and Fung 1994: 47); it was quality for Londoners (Chan and Fung 1994: 49), and promotion for Vancouver people. A different consciousness affected consumer behaviour according to different cultural background, and the perception of the instant noodle was found to be different but commonly recognised as a convenience food offering easy and quick cooking (Chan and Fung 1994: 7, 32).

Instant noodles are more frequently consumed by people in Hong Kong than the West (Chan and Fung 1994: 28). Westerners conceive instant noodles as a low-priced oriental substitute food in general (Chan and Fung 1994: 27, 32, 51, 53). The convenience and flavour varieties of instant noodles matches well with the cosmopolitan lifestyle and such benefits save time for cosmopolitan consumers in food preparation and cooking (Chan and Fung 1994: 41). The popularisation of instant noodles could use the benefits of instant noodle at the most which satisfied the demand of the society with continuous improvement in the context of quality, flavour and much more. The preference with flavour was different in each region, and instant noodle manufacturers have introduced instant noodle products based on local cuisine. This signifies the hybrid feature of instant noodles by the adoption of local culture in order to gain popularity in the society. High consumption of instant noodles was led by strategic marketing programs by meeting the concerns of the society; the authors describe an understanding of the culture and demand in the society as a vital process for the success of instant noodles because of the hybrid feature of instant noodle, different perception and demand by different society established by culture.

2.2.4. Han’s ramyun

Han focuses on Ramyun for examining the success of instant noodles in Korea by identifying the significance of understanding food culture in the great success of Ramyun in Korea. Noodles have been a prestigious food in Korean history; however, instant noodles were represented as a food for the poor owing to its cheap price (K. Han 2015: 99). The low-class representation of Ramyun led a chaebol6 president to refuse to eat Ramyun (K. Han 2015: 101). However, Han claims that Ramyun has little assignation with social class distinctions in the present era as it has been popularised in Korean society, and Koreans have grown up consuming Ramyun as a common meal or snack since their childhood (K. Han 2015: 100). In other words, the popularisation of Ramyun in Korea has established instant noodles as a part of its local food habit and shifted the perception of Ramyun in Korea.

Although Ramyun bases its origins in Japan, Koreans have developed instant noodles by adopting local culinary culture. The difference between Japanese ramen and Korean Ramyun is as below:

Table 1: Difference between Korean Ramyun and Japanese Ramen

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Koreans use Ramyun as a word to indicate a packed instant noodle while Japanese ramen indicates a noodle dish sold at restaurants. The most dominant difference between ramen and Ramyun is flavour. Hot and spicy tastes dominate the flavour of Ramyun which has presumably accustomed local cuisine into Ramyun flavour that distinguishes Ramyun from ramen (K. Han 2015: 103). Rapid social transformation shifts traditional food dining to simple and convenient dining which made Ramyun a beloved-food by the public (K. Han 2015: 104). Furthermore, the huge consumption and popularity of instant noodles in Korea rendered Ramyun as a Korean cultural promoter (K. Han 2015: 102).

By understanding the domestication of instant noodles in Korea and the comparison to Japanese instant noodles, culture is again highlighted as a significant factor in the popularity of instant noodles. Not only a great factor contributes to the success of cultural product but a catalyst delivers its further development as how Ramyun became beloved food in Korea by adaptation and transformation of culture despite its origin. Instant noodles are, therefore, a flexible product developed and transformed by culture.

2.3. Summary

To conclude, this chapter signified the importance of understanding culture to explain the popularity and success of instant noodles. This chapter discusses a response to the first research question and defines instant noodles as a modern food innovation, a substitute for a meal, affordable food, quick food, great varieties, hybrid product by adoption of local taste, flexible and trend flow. By applying those definitions and perceptions of instant noodles, instant noodles are indeed a ‘trend-flow cultural invention’ as I defined instant noodles in the previous chapter. Although such perceptions of instant noodles seem common in general; however, consideration of language itself as a word is also important. As identified in Han’s article, there are different contextual interpretations between ramen in Japan and Ramyun in Korea despite both originating from the Chinese word lamian. By adopting instant noodles as such a conceptual product, this thesis will further discuss the features and development of Ramyun in Korea.

3. Korean culture: Behaviour & Culinary heritage

3.1. Ppali ppali (hurry hurry) Culture

Korean is well-known as a rushing society (Renshaw 2011: 9; Kim 1996: 47) and such attitude is created by the Korean doctrine of ‘hurry hurry’. Such a rushing culture is deeply connected to the history of Korea. As Haw (2015) illustrates, the rapid development of Korea has provided a huge contribution toward the establishment of such culture in addition with historical and geopolitical facts. Korea was a very conservative country which is clear by its closed-door policy, also known as isolationist foreign policy, of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). The Korean peninsula suffered numerous invasions by its neighbouring countries (Park 2011) in its entire history and was victimized by the Cold War during the Korean War (1950-1953). The reconstruction of Korea from the Korean War was accelerated under President Park Chung-hee’s regime since 1963. It is best described as the strongest authoritarian regime in Korean history (Kang 2011) and also brought successful rapid economic growth and social development in Korea by far.

Several fatal events were suffered by Koreans, and the authoritarian government’s strong implementation of a development plan affected the change of people’s mindset from conservative to rushing (Haw 2015). Rapid social transition and urbanisation complemented the rushing culture, and the pursuit of such culture was firmly consolidated in Korea by its tremendous development, ‘the Miracle on the Han river.’

Koreans are strictly conscious of time management and see time as a precious resource and asset that increases a concern for the efficient use of time in Korea (Kim 1996: 47). Time pressure has intensified with changes in working lifestyle, the pursuit of fast-paced work and longer working hours in the present era (Strazdins and Loughrey 2007). Thus, the popularity of convenient, fast and instant food has increased worldwide (Monteiro et al. 2010). However, it has been more significant in Korea due to its rushing culture. Koreans are notoriously speedy eaters and finish their meals in less than 15 minutes in general (Lee et al. 2013). Such speedy eating habits and delivery food culture are representative of Korean food culture established by this rushing culture.

As shown in this section, the rushing culture is a result of conglomerate influences. The influence of globalisation is also found in the construction of a rushing culture in Korea. Such recently-constructed culture became dominant due to its remarkable influence toward the successful development of Korea in a short period. Koreans then perceive the rushing culture as a successful tool and being rushed became a norm in their society. The culture has then been further developed by social changes. The Koreans’ pursuit of speed and convenience arising from the rushing culture greatly matches the easy and rapid features of instant noodles. Thus, the rushing culture and instant noodles are highly linked as both share similar characteristics, which supports the popularity of instant noodles in Korea.

3.2. Spicy Flavour and Soup in Korean Food Culture

3.2.1. Chilli and Spicy Flavour

The geographical feature of the Korean peninsula with a rocky coastal line and high mountain ranges established hot and humid summers and harsh winters which increase the need to preserve food (Kim et al. 2016). Chilli is the most important ingredient for food fermentation in Korea as the putrefactive microorganisms of chilli control and produce the fermentation process (Kwon et al. 2014). In addition, chilli is used in most all representative Korean traditional foods such as Kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage dish), Gochujang (Fermented chilli paste) and Deonjang jjigae (Fermented bean paste vegetable soup). Korean foods are known to be red and spicy; not extremely spicy by use of mild and sweet Korean chilli ‘ gochu’ compared to chillies from other regions which existed and have grown on the Korean peninsula billions of years ago (Tewksbury and Nabhan 2001).

Korean chilli is distinguished as a sweet-taste chilli as it has distinctive low-level Scoville heat unit (SHU) compared to other chillies worldwide. The chilli analysis in the article of Kwon et al (2014) supports the distinctive feature of worldwide chilli by different SHU: Korean chilli gochu 6,000-10,000; Central American chilli aji 30,000-50,000; Indian chilli nagajolokia 855,000-1,000,000; which supposes the use of other chillies may not be used or are inedible for Korean food due to their different and extreme spicy level (Kwon et al. 2014). Korean chilli has become the most popular vegetable seasoning in Korea (Park 1999) and established the distinctive spicy feature of Korean foods.

Korean’s preference and fondness for spicy taste is well-known. The survey conducted by Consumerwide (2014) shows Koreans preference for spicy taste over sour, salty, bitter and sweet tastes in general, and spicy taste is identified as the most favourite taste over all tastes in all age groups, except the teenager group. Several research shows the benefit of consuming spicy food to daily diet as healthy factors (Cha et al. 2013; Lv et al. 2015).

This section explains the factors of using chilli and the dominance of spicy taste in Korean cuisine. The high consumption of chilli is identified in Korean cuisine. However, owing to the mildness of Korean chillies, it is believed that Korean dishes do not have extreme spicy levels. With Korean’s infatuation for chilli and spicy taste, spicy taste and the chilli have become a denominator of the Ramyun taste (WINA 2018) to which Korean consumers today are adjusted and addicted (K. Han 2015: 97, 98, 103).

3.2.2. Guk, Jjigae, Tang – Soup Dishes in Korean Food

One representative feature of Korean food is soup dishes often called guk, jjigae and tang. Soup is one of the most important elements in Korean cuisine (Chang 2009: 36; Pettid 2008: 27) as it helps with the chewing and swallowing of rice and other dishes which replenishes nutrition, supports digestion of food (Kim et al. 2016) and helps the recuperative process of the body (Yun 2013: 61). The significance of soup can be found from linguistic perspectives in Korean ‘food’. Food is called ‘eumsig (음식)’ which refers to ‘eating and drinking.’ There are several discourses of the establishment of the Korean soup culture; however, most arguments link the Korean family-oriented lifestyle to support their arguments. Korean culture is regarded as strong in collectivism (Hofstede 1980) where sharing culture is comprised. The long historical use of the spoon in Korea since the Bronze age (Oh 2015) may also support the soup cooking culture, as the spoon is mainly used for rice and soup in Korean dining. Traditionally, Korean dishes are the bowl-type unlike the plate of the West which may contribute to the soup dish becoming a main element of Korean dining.

Large varieties of soup dishes in Korean cuisine developed throughout its history explain the obsession and love of Koreans’ soup dishes. Indeed, Koreans consume relatively great quantities of soup (Ji et al. 2010) as they believe “no meal is considered complete without [soup]” (Sheen 2011: 18). As a Korean, I do clearly remember my father’s strong demand for having a soup in every meal. Also, when I visited my friends’ house, my friends’ mother always cooked a soup for us to share, certainly with rice and several side dishes. Tracing back memories in Korea, I have always had soup in my meal, but it was considered common in Korean meal culture, so I did not really recognise how much and often I had soup in Korea until I lived abroad.

Connecting Korean soup culture to Ramyun, interestingly, the Ramyun sold in Korea are mostly soup-type, and the soup-type Ramyun has always been recorded as the top selling Ramyun. As identified above in this section, soup has been a dominant element of a Korean meal. The influence of traditional cuisine and dining habits cannot be ignored as it has been handed down and remains significant in society as it has been acknowledged and practiced as a manner.

3.3. Summary

Convenience and taste of Ramyun are examined in this chapter in a link to the popularity of Ramyun in Korea. Convenience, rapid cooking and preparation of Ramyun’s features satisfy the Koreans demand created by the rushing culture. The social transformation led by globalisation and successful development of society brought by rushing culture has, therefore, enhanced the significance of ‘rush’ in the society.

The success of Ramyun in Korea is also followed by the adaptation of local cuisine. There is a story of former President Park Chung-hee (in office 1963-1979) who suggested a spicier Ramyun as Koreans love spicy-soup dishes in 1966 after he had Samyang Ramyun as a meal (Lee 2013)7. And Ramyun’s redness, spicy flavour and soup which blended features of Korean cuisine are distinctive features of Ramyun to other foreign instant noodles. The popularity of red, spicy soup Ramyun is still significant as the top-selling Ramyun in Korean domestic market (shown below in Figure 1-3). They are commonly red, spicy and soup-type which signifies that the popularity of Ramyun is proportional to local culinary culture.

Figure 1-3: Displayed image of ramyun by major ramyun manufacturers

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4. Policy and Promotion of Ramyun in Korea

The previous chapter has shown the cultural links to instant noodles by describing the Korean rushing culture and culinary culture. This chapter illustrates the development of Ramyun in Korea, Ramyun in government policy, and marketing strategies by Ramyun manufacturers. Here, I am arguing that government policy is a factor that sets the inexpensive price of Ramyun and contributed to its popularity through several marketing advertisement-led purchases of Ramyun. Thus, I will investigate the roles of government policy and advertisements influencing the popularity of Ramyun in Korea and how it has been developed throughout the development of Ramyun.

4.1. The Development of Ramyun in Korea

Jeon Jung-yung, the founder of Samyang Foods Co., Ltd, introduced Ramyun in Korea after his visit to Japan. He imported two instant noodle manufacturing machines and technology from Japan’s Myojo Food Co., Ltd and produced the first instant noodle in Korea (Kim and Jeon 2011: 27, 68-69; Cho n.d.). The primary reason to introduce Ramyun product in Korea was to overcome the food shortage and make it a staple food (K. Han 2015: 94). In fact, the Korean government provided USD 50,000 loans to Samyang food to enable the importation of instant noodle technology and machinery in Korea. The first Ramyun, Samyang Ramyun, was introduced on 15th September 1963. The first ramyun, Samyang Ramyun, was introduced on 15th September 1963. The price of the first Samyang Ramyun was 10 won8 (USD 0.019 )/package (1 package = 100g) when it was first introduced (Kim 2015; Samyangfoods n.d.). The monthly average income per household of urban working population in 1963 was only 5,990 Won (USD 5.34); thus, I assume that consuming 10 won on Ramyun was considered quite a fancy meal, not just a simple snack like today.

Ramyun was not selling well when it was first introduced in Korea. Samyang had to demonstrate several marketing strategies in order to promote their products to the public. There was a drastic increase in sales of Samyang Ramyun in 1966 which was a result of Samyang’s three years of marketing which successfully formed the public perception of Ramyun (Kim and Jeon 2011: 36). Samyang has introduced more varieties of Ramyun since then. I assume that Samyang’s marketing and its success established good groundwork for further development of Ramyun in Korea which enabled the introduction of new Ramyun products and establishment of Ramyun manufacturers. It also shows the power and effectiveness of the marketing strategy, not only in satisfying public demands but also in generating consistent profit for manufacturers.

The success of Samyang Ramyun in Korea did not happen at once but with several efforts in order to promote their products. Government loans, the will of the founder of Samyang Food, the importation and development of instant noodle manufacturing technology and machinery, and good marketing strategy are the fundamentals of the present popularity of Ramyun in Korea. The next section will discuss Ramyun in Korean government policy.

4.2. Ramyun in Korean Policy from the 1960s to Today

As mentioned above, the Korean government was seeking to overcome a national food shortage. The nation had not fully recovered from the Korean War in the 1960s, and Korea still remained as one of the poorest countries in the world (Teichman 2016). The short-supply of rice during 1963-1977 and a large quantity of the United States (US) wheat flour to Korea under US Public Law (PL) 480, Title I, Food for Peace Program led the implementation of the Policy of mixed and flour foods in the 1960s (Park et al. 2015). Consumption of Ramyun was promoted by the government policy to encourage the consumption of flour products – Policy of Mixed & Flour Foods (혼분식장려정책), which shows the implication of the government policy in 1970s to the popularity and large consumption of Ramyun in Korea.10

4.2.1. Classification and Food Safety of Ramyun

The is no specific description of Ramyun in the Korea Food Code by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, but considers Ramyun as a noodle product which is distinguished by noodle processing techniques (see Appendix 1) and package type (aT 2017b: 11-12). Several food standards apply to Ramyun products such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and KS Standards for Processed Foods (aT 2017b: 18). Labelling is compulsory for Ramyun as noodle products are listed as a food product which applies to obligatory food labelling of nutrition and ingredients in Article 11 of the Food Sanitation Act.

There was a court order to Samyang Ramyun in 1989 stopping the manufacture of the product with the charge of frying noodles using industrial beef oil. In August 1997, Samyang received a verdict of not guilty from the Supreme Court; however, Nongshim have already taken the leader status of the Korean Ramyun industry.

4.2.2. Price of Ramyun

The government recognised Ramyun as a representative food product in the list of price stability of primary goods and foods (Statistics Korea 2008). In fact, the price of Ramyun has remained inexpensive owing to the strict restriction of the government on the price increase.

As shown in Table 2, there was only 10 Won (USD 0.01) increase in 1970 because of wheat flour and beef tallow11 price increase; however, the net weight of Ramyun per package also increased by 120g (Pulmuone 2011). It was only in 1983 that the price of Ramyun became 100 Won (USD 0.1) as the government managed to control the price increase of Ramyun. Additionally, an increase in the Ramyun price has never been significant as the price increased accordingly with the increase in ingredient price and the consumer price index (CPI) (aT 2017b: 64; KFIA 2010: 25).

Table 2: Price of Samyang ramyun in Korean Supermarkets (per one package)

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The government has been controlling the price of Ramyun strictly as it is recognised as a staple food. The Lee Myung-bak government put Ramyun under a primary price control list (MB물가지수) in order to keep the Ramyun price as low as possible (K. Han 2015: 95). In the early 2010s, four major Ramyun manufacturers: Nongshim; Samyang; Ottogi; Paldo (previously Hankuk Yakult) were suspected of fix-pricing. Although the four major corporations cleared their suspicion, such incidents and investigation also addressed the government’s clear concern on the price of Ramyun as a staple food product. Ramyun is still considered as a staple food, and the changes in price highly concern the public and government today.

4.2.3. Change of food consumption habits

Koreans consume rice as a main element of their meal. The Policy of mixed and flour foods implemented from November 1962 brought change to Korean dietary patterns. The influx of US wheat flour and aid from the United Nations (UN) after the Korean War increased the importation of foreign grains and brought unbalance to the grain supply and demand. A bad harvest year of 1962 and 1963 led to food fluctuations in 1963, and the government announced the guideline for a national rice saving campaign (절미운동) in January 1963 (Minstry of Agriculture and Fisheries 1978: 402). The policy prohibited the sales of rice on Wednesday and Saturday and officers in the Ministry of Agriculture practices ‘lunch for bread and milk’ (National Institute of Korean History 2009). Interestingly, the government did propagate a habit of having white rice without mixing grains as a ‘nonsensical act’ as it results in deficiency in building one’s body and personality – a non-science-based propaganda of the government merely to accomplish their policy (Song 1999). In contrast, wheat flour was advertised as healthier and more nutritious food than rice (Kim 2018).

Ramyun appeared as a major food product to be promoted in Plan for the rice saving campaign and improvement of eating habits presented in February 1968 by the Ministry of Agriculture. With several campaigns and implementation of policy by the government, the consumption of wheat flour in Korea doubled from 13.8kg in 1965 to 28.7kg in 1969 (National Archives of Korea n.d.). The castigation of huge rice consumption in Korea encouraged the publics’ consumption of flour-based food and somewhat laid the outset of Western food consumption habits in Korea. Indeed, a consumption of flour-based food was considered as a modern Western lifestyle among the Korean middle-classes (Kim 2018).

A strong government policy implementation enabled the increasing consumption of wheat flour and brought the transition of food consumption habits in Korea. The shortage of rice supply occurred with the price fluctuation of rice, and the government used the foreign-aided wheat flour in overcoming such crisis. Pro-flour consumption propagandas, critiques on rice consumption, and perception of flour consumption as a modern lifestyle are conducive to the explosion of flour consumption in Korea. Thus, such pro-wheat flour government policy provided a great opportunity to Ramyun for promoting the product nation-wide and increasing the sales of Ramyun.

4.3. Ramyun advertisement – Marketing strategy

As discussed in the previous section, government policy plays an important role in increasing consumption of Ramyun in Korea. The promotion of campaigns and policy would not be successful without media. This section will look at corporations’ Ramyun media advertisements to investigate the marketing strategies of the Ramyun manufacturers apart from government policy and campaigns.

4.3.1. From 1963 to 1980s

The first advertisement of Samyang Ramyun (see Figure 4) highlights the convenience of cooking instant noodles as a meal, and Ramyun as ‘the second rice (staple food)’ which indirectly underlines consuming Ramyun as a good behaviour complying with the government policy and campaigns in 1963. Additionally, Samyang offered free-tastings to consumers as a part of its marketing in order to overcome the public’s unfamiliarity with instant noodle (Kim and Jeon 2011: 35-36).

Figure 4: Samyang ramyun newspaper advertisement in 1963

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(Seo 2011)

The introduction of Lotte Ramyun by the Lotte Food Industrial Company (current Nongshim Co., Ltd) was no match for Samyang Ramyun until the early 1970s. And Samyang Ramyun sustained its status as the pioneer and leader of the Ramyun market in Korea in the early 1970s by introducing the cup-type noodle in 1972 (Seo 2011).

However, Samyang Ramyun’s leading status in the Ramyun market became unsteady with a television (TV) advertisement of Lotte Food Industrial Company’s new Ramyun ‘Nongshim Ramyun’. Nongshim Ramyun’s TV advertisement with its famous quote ‘Hungnim monjo Awoo monjo (Older brother first Younger brother first)’ performed by two famous comedians Gwak Gyu-seok and Gu Bong-seo’s comic monologue made a big hit in Korea12. The package of Nongshim Ramyun had an illustration of two brothers moving a stack of rice straw to another’s house in order to help his family which shows brotherly love from the Korean tale, ‘The Two Good Brothers’ (Kim 2015). After the huge popularity of Nongshim Ramyun, the corporation changed its name to Nongshim in 1978.

Samyang Ramyun also had TV advertisements since 1980 with celebrity entertainer Lee Sang-yong. However, the investment of Nongshim in further establishment of manufacturing plant and the introduction of several Ramyun products such as Neoguri, Ansungtangmyun, Jjapagetti made Nongshim the leading corporation of the Ramyun market in Korea in 1985 (Seo 2011).

Considering public ownership of a TV has only increased in 1970s in Korea, Samyang’s TV advertisement seems quite belated compared to Nongshim. Samyang’s peerless leading status in Ramyun market may be a factor of belated TV marketing as the sales of Samyang Ramyun were incomparable with other Ramyun products during the period. Celebrity endorsement was used in most TV advertisements and highlights the full-flavour, deliciousness and convenience of Ramyun13.

4.3.2. From 1990s to the present

It is obvious that the role of media became more significant in the current era with the spread of globalisation. Media advertisements are presented as an effective marketing tool today with its strong connection and impact to consumers (Hadjikhani et al. 1998). Using celebrities in advertisements bring favourable outcomes to a product (Atay and Kahle 2011) as celebrities are identified as a symbol representing particular cultural values and ideas (Hung et al. 2011). In fact, countless celebrities have appeared in Ramyun advertisements and such practice still continues today.

Compared to the Ramyun advertisements in the 1980s, the Ramyun advertisements highlight the taste and goodness of Ramyun since the late 1990s. The case of Samyang Ramyun beef tallow in 1989 and negative public perception on animal-based fat stoked damage to Ramyun manufacturers (Lee 2016). Thus, the appearances of celebrities in Ramyun advertisements were still significant in the 1990s in order to change negative perceptions of Ramyun. Matgreen seasonings’ newspaper advertisement advocates the harm of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which established negative perceptions of MSG in the public (see Appendix 2). In 1996, Binggrae’s Newmyun Ramyun advertised its product with the slogan of ‘New taste without using MSG‘ clearly showing the negative perception of MSG in the mid-1990s.

Ramyun advertisements stressing health benefits continue in the late 1990s. Nongshim introduced Kong Ramyun and advertised the benefit of bean, its main soup ingredients by celebrity Dr Hwang Soo-kwan, saying “Everyone knows the benefits of bean for us… made of bean peptide and bean fat …” (nongshimusa 2011) in 1998. Jin Ramyun advertisement in 1999 highlighted the health benefits of its product by advertising “Ottogi Ramyun kneaded the dough with calcium benefit to the body” (ottoginoodle 2018).

If Nongshim was the beneficiary of media marketing in the 1960s, Ottogi is the large beneficiary in the 2010s. Certainly, there are efforts and investments in product research and development (R&D) in product - noodle quality improvement, reduce sodium content (1970mg to 1540mg), improve soup ingredients; contributed to the sales increase of Ottogi Jin Ramyun (Kim 2014). Marketing strategies of Ottogi were recognised as the largest contributor of its sales increase14. There was a continuous package renewal, an establishment of a communication platform with consumers in Ottogi’s strategies. An advertisement of Jin Ramyun by sport celebrity Ryu Hyun-jin is decidedly the largest effect which brought a 20 percent increase in Jin Ramyun sales in 2014 and 2015 (Choi 2014). Consumers chose Ryu’s advertisement as the favourite Ramyun advertisement in June 2014 (Kim 2014). With the success of Ryu’s advertisement, Ottogi continued its sport celebrity marketing until the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games (see Figure 5-9), but went back to entertainer celebrity marketing in its 30th anniversary in mid-2018 (see Figure 10).

Figure 5-10: Ottogi Jin Ramyun Advertisements and Campaigns

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Not only Ottogi Jin ramyun but major ramyun product such as Nongshim Shin ramyun and Samyang ramyun also celebrate its 30th and 50th anniversary by introducing Special or Limited edition package. However Ottogi seems to have strong interest in media advertisement and marketing than other ramyun manufacturers as its efforts indeed increases the share in Korean ramyun market.

Table 3: Ramyun brand slogan by products (as of 12th September 2018)

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Brands and products use different branding slogans today (see Table 3) but none of the major Ramyun products use health promoting-like wording. Rather, slogans seem to promote the product to the public to remind their products as a representative Ramyun. The presence of celebrities still seems to be significant in Ramyun media marketing (see Appendix 3) as the influence of media increases the power of celebrities which promotes, not only a product, but also stimulates the consumers’ desire (Park and Yang 2010) that celebrity endorsement still remains an effective marketing strategy.

4.4. Summary

Ramyun’s development did not gain instant popularity when it was introduced in the first place but support from several marketing promotions, investment and government policy. In fact, the development of Ramyun was possible through government loans and good marketing strategies. In the 1960s, the Korean government was keen to overcome its food shortage and with a short-supply of rice and large stock of wheat flour provided by US, established the food policy encouraging consumption of flour in the 1960s. Ramyun was classified as the staple food under the policy which was highly promoted for consumption in Korea. Thus, the government has been controlling the price of Ramyun which explains the slow price increase of Ramyun until the present era. Such policy and promotion carried by the government led to the increase of wheat flour consumption in Korea. In addition, the influx of modern lifestyle and food brought by globalisation also has significant contributions in the popularisation and popularity of Ramyun in Korea.

Ramyun manufacturers have made several marketing strategies in order to promote its products. Samyang’s free-tasting marketing, using newspaper advertising highlighting convenience and nutrition of Ramyun successfully changed the public perception of Ramyun and led the familiarisation of Ramyun in Korean society. Nongshim’s TV advertisements using traditional tale and celebrity endorsement brought a big hit to Nongshim’s Ramyun product. Media is indeed a significant marketing tool today with its strong influence directly to consumers.

If the 1960s were the introductory period of Ramyun in Korea, the 1970s was the developmental period along with government policy and marketing promotions by Ramyun manufacturers (aT 2017: 68). The promotion of wheat flour consumption addressed in government policy in the 1960s and 1970s were established by culture. The marketing strategies of Ramyun manufacturers are highly influenced by the role that culture plays in food policy and marketing. Food policy indeed is a predominant factor to sustain the affordable price of Ramyun until today, and the marketing of manufacturers encourages the consumption of Ramyun that the influence of food policy and marketing cannot be ignored in a discourse of Ramyun popularity and success in Korea.

5. Korean Consumers and Ramyun

This chapter focuses on the Korean lifestyle and consumers in a link to the popularity of Ramyun. Korea’s status in Inglehart-Welzel’s Cultural Map will be looked at first briefly in order to understand the cultural characteristics of the society. What I argue in this chapter is that changes in demographic feature and consumption patterns contribute to the popularity of Ramyun. The current trend of Ramyun is identified in the last section to figure out the influence of consumers and culture towards the continuous popularity of Ramyun in Korea.

5.1. Korean society in Inglehart-Welzel’s Cultural Map

Based on Inglehart-Welzel’s cultural map15 in Table 4 and Figure 11, Korea belongs to Confucian group and identifies as a low individualism culture where the presence of collectivism still remains strong in the society. Opinions and views of others matter more than individuals’ own attitude on purchase intentions (Lee and Green 1991). However, the survival versus self-expression values of Korea has moved more towards self-expression and addresses the transition of the society and people. The self-expression society is best described as a society which puts relatively higher values on individuals’ well-being, health and quality lifestyle (Inglehart and Baker 2000; Inglehart and Welzel 2005). Korean society is thus a rational society experiencing social transition to post-materialism culture16.

Table 4: Korean cultural values in Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map

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Figure 11: Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map 2017

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(The World Values Survey n.d.)

5.2. Change of demographic feature and Food consumption pattern

5.2.1. Increasing Single household

Korea has been strongly dominated by community and collectivism and just recently experienced the increase of the eat-alone culture. The increase of loner culture can be partially explained by rising demographic figures of the single household in Korea since 2000 (see Figure 12). The single household occupies the largest share in the total household size in Korea since 2015, and the increase of single household share in 2016 marks the highest increase in all household sizes. And the growth of the single household is expected to increase by an annual growth rate of three percent which marks the highest growth rate among all household sizes (Statistics Korea 2017). Among single household groups, young age group (under 40) single households are more apparent in urban areas while the age group of 50+ single households are mostly residing in rural or provincial area (KB Financial Group 2017).

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Figure 12: Demographic Feature of Single Household in Korea

(Statistics Korea 2017)

The South Korean population growth rate has stagnated since 1995 and remains around 0.5 percent per annum, recording the lowest growth rate in 2016 as 0.4 percent (Statistics Korea 2017). Despite the slow population growth rate, the size of single households has increased sharply along with the increase of urban population. Such rise in the single household proportion identified since 1960s is largely due to the migration of young people to urban areas (Park 1994). The largest factors for living alone were identified as education and working, and preference of solo lifestyle (KB Financial Group 2017). It is generally recognised that a decline in household size is highly linked to modernisation processes, and small-size households which have been represented as a feature of Western households (Hareven 1976; Burch and Matthews 1987). And such changes are described as an outcome of cultural change and widespread Western individualist culture in Korean society (Kim et al. 2018); this coined a term for single household consumers such as single-sumer; 1conomy; naholo-jok; for me jok. 17

5.2.2. Change of Food Consumption Behaviour and Purchase Pattern

Along with the rise of single households, hon-bap jok (people eat alone) has been increased in Korean society. Korean broadcasting has been showing numerous ‘eating alone’ mukbang 18 (eating programs) on TV by increasing single household in the society since the 2010s. The increase of single household optimises food products for singles. The present increasing demand of Home Meal Replacement (HMR)19 indeed signifies the popularisation of hon-bap culture in Korea and food market trend. The Korean HMR market recorded 99.5 percent growth from 2011 (1,136.8 billion Won = USD 1,011 million) to 2016 (2,268.2 billion Won = USD 2,018 million) (aT 2017a).

Korean consumers have increasing concerns on convenience, well-being, health, and environment-friendly has become trends in food consumption (Kim and Noh 2015; Kim 2008). Such concerns and food consumption trend correspond to the feature of post-materialist society and the transition of Korean cultural value towards self-expression which is signified by the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map.

Ramyun is identified as one of the representative foods of HMR (aT 2017a), ranked as the largest food consumed by Korean single households under HMR food category (Oh 2017), and generally consumed as lunch or dinner (Yu et al. 2013). The preference on convenience led to a noteworthy growth of cup-type Ramyun sales. 27.9 percent growth rate from 598.271 billion Won (USD 533 million) in 2012 to 765.538 billion Won (USD 682 million) in 2017 was identified in recent five years, based on data from Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation Food Information Statistics System (aTFIS) (n.d.). The sales of cup-type Ramyun was, however, not prominent in the past due to the public’s unfamiliarity, lower female economic participation, and low preference on convenience meals such as HMR (Park 2014). Cup-type Ramyun was mainly sold at convenience stores20 while package-Ramyun was least sold at convenient stores but megamarts (aTFIS n.d.).

5.2.3. Consumer Demand on Healthy & Premium Food

Increasing concerns on health among Korean consumers raised the demand of health and premium food. Korean’s speedy eating habit is recognised as highly related with obesity, Body Mass Index (BMI) (Kim 2006) and increasing public awareness on disadvantages of fast food and/or HMR heavily contributed to the premium food trend in Korea. And consumers today are concerned with the quality of products prior to their purchase that desire a high-quality product at low-cost (Samjong KPMG ERI Inc 2016). That is, consumers think and engage more information about food than before and that price, quality and information in every respect influences consumers’ purchase of products.

Premium refers to ‘high standard (Cambridge University Press 2018)’. ‘Premium food’ can then be defined as a food made by good ingredients and/or manufactured under hygienic and safe environment which provides high standard quality and taste to consumers. Such demand of premium food also seems obvious in the HMR market as food manufacturers and retailers have introduced fresh premium private brand (PB) product in HMR. Generally, PB products21 have been perceived as good-quality, and lower price products gain instant popularity with consumers struggling with price increase (Lee 2012).

Ramyun has been one of PB products widely manufactured and sold by retailers. As mentioned in the previous section, the popularity of Ramyun in the HMR market is significant. The emergence of new manufacturers and products in the Ramyun market eventually intensified the competition in the market that lead to further development of Ramyun by manufacturers. Despite the popularity of Ramyun, it has always been engaged with the health-issue due to its excessive sodium context, high oil content by oil frying processes, synthetic flavouring, and seasoning (K. Han 2015: 94; Jang et al. 2009).

Thus, Ramyun is a food developed by rapid consumption trend transition, and high competition in the market led manufacturers to make efforts in R&D with conglomerate strategies. Table 5 shows the timeline of Ramyun’s development since 2000.

Table 5. Timeline of Ramyun Development since 2000.22

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Until the mid-2000s, due to slow population growth, consumer trend towards well-being brought a stagnation period to the Ramyun market. However, such misfortune turned into a blessing in 2011 with the introduction of white-soup Ramyun such as Kokomyun of Paldo, Nagasaki jjampong of Samyang, Gisumyun of Ottogi (Jin 2014). The Ramyun market revived and recovered its sales with white-soup Ramyun, and this is certainly an achievement of the Ramyun manufacturers’ efforts and strategies. And the sales of dry-type noodle have been increased since 2013 by the emergence of the modiconsumer23 (aT 2014). Different types of noodles such as rice noodles, buckwheat noodles, chewy noodles, barley noodles, thin 1mm noodles, thick 3mm noodles have been introduced and gained popularity among consumers (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and aT 2016). Table 6 provides a brief analysis of premium Ramyun sold in Korea, and the development of Ramyun is notable in noodle and flavour. New launching of Ramyun products such as kalguksu (Korean knife-cut noodle soup), naengmyun (Korean cold noodle), jjampong (Chinese style seafood), budaejjigae (Korean ham and vegetable hot pot), gamjatang (Korean pork bone and potato soup), buldak bokkeum (hot and spicy pan-broiled) and many more clearly signifies the steady development of Ramyun in the present era.

Table 6. Analysis of Premium Ramyun

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5.3. Summary

This chapter explains the society, lifestyle and consumer trend in Korea. It shows the culture of Korean society based on the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural map, which identifies the strong collectivism in the society and transition of society towards self-expression that society is moving towards post-materialism culture. Consumers thus increasingly put higher values on individuals’ well-being, health and quality lifestyle that led to changes in consumer trend. The increasing single household is also a result of social transition and such demographic changes brought changes in food consumption behaviour and purchase pattern. The popularity of Ramyun become more significant as it is perceived as a representative HMR food, which is largely consumed by Korean single households. Consumers’ concern and demand on health increases the premium food variety in Korea. Such dynamic consumer trend led fierce competition among Ramyun manufacturers and resulted in the introduction of large varieties of premium Ramyun by flavour, ingredients, noodle, soup and many more. This chapter, thus clearly signifies importance of culture towards the popularity and sales of Ramyun. Consumers take great part in Ramyun sales and popularity, while consumers are largely influenced by culture which contributed to changes and development in food consumption behaviour and trend.

6. Conclusion

This chapter serves as the final chapter for this thesis. Prior to writing this chapter, I re-read the first chapter and tried to recall what I had tried to figure out at the starting point of this thesis to make sure that I have found what I promised to convey in the first chapter. This chapter is a concluding chapter consisting of a discussion of all the previous chapters in mind and hope to provide concluding comments for this study. However, this chapter is not to close the study but aims to show cultural implications visited in all the previous chapters, bound together to a discourse of the cultural implication of the popularity of Ramyun in Korea. The prospective future research in Ramyun and my future academic venture will be explained at the end of this chapter.

6.1. Summary and Discussion of Findings

The research questions of this thesis were: “How is Ramyun defined in the society? What makes the popularity and success of Ramyun in Korea – In what contexts did culture contribute such phenomenon and further development of Ramyun?” Notwithstanding the long history of noodles, instant noodles are a recently invented food product from Japan in 1958. By acknowledging instant noodles as a foreign-originated food, Korea has become the most instant noodle consuming country by individuals in the world. Despite its convenience and fast cooking, many researchers have associated instant noodles with high health risk factors. The popularity of instant noodles, however, does not seem diminished by such facts but is rather widely spread worldwide and gained consistent popularity with the public.

Throughout the study, I found that the popularity of Ramyun has not been established by a sole factor but a conglomerate, and the role of culture is significant in order to explain the popularity and success of Ramyun in Korea. Culture is a broad concept which embraces economy and society by reciprocal influence with economy and social phenomenon. Instant noodles are defined as a modern innovative food, affordable food, substitute meal, hybrid product by adopting local cuisine, flexible and trend flow product in the literature. With the rapid spread of globalisation, instant noodles did spread and further develop worldwide.

The word ‘Ramyun’ is a ramification of contextual development of instant noodles from the Japanese ‘ramen’. However, the feature of Ramyun is different from ramen as it embraces Korean culinary culture using chilli (gochu), spiciness, redness, hot and boiled soup (guk, tang and jjigae) which signifies the transformation of instant noodle flavour from the Japanese mild and salty taste to Korean local culinary culture. The convenience-pursuit feature of instant noodles and the ppali ppali (hurry hurry) culture of Korea supports the popularity of Ramyun in Korea by its resemblance.

In order to overcome the unfamiliarity of Ramyun in Korea when it was first introduced in 1961 by Samyang, several aggressive marketing strategies such as free-tasting and giveaway were conducted by Samyang in order to promote and familiarise Ramyun to the public. The flavour of Ramyun had also gone through changes by adopting Korean cuisine. As rice was consumed as the main element of Korean cuisine, the promotion of flour-based food product was not an easy task. Rice shortage in 1962 and 1963, and the influx of wheat flour from the UN and US led the government to implement policy encouraging consumption of flour and reducing rice consumption campaign. As a result, flour consumption increased nationally, and the consumption of flour-based food was perceived as a symbol of modern Western lifestyle in general that led to the consistent increase of flour consumption in Korea.

Ramyun was promoted by strong implementation of government policy of promoting flour consumption, and also recognised as a food product in which the price is controlled under the Policy of Price Stabilization. The price of Ramyun indeed did not have significant increase owing to the strict price control by the government until today. Consecutive investment on R&D and marketing were brought by high competition among Ramyun manufacturers which led the further development of Ramyun in Korea. Ramyun manufacturers used different marketing strategies. The effective use of media marketing is imperative in order to gain popularity and increase sales of Ramyun product as Nongshim’s TV advertisement in the 1960s brought Nongshim as a top competitor of Samyang. Not only did Nongshim benefit by using media marketing, but also Ottogi with its active promotion of its Ramyun products. Celebrity endorsement is highly used by all Ramyun manufacturers as the impact brought great benefit in sales and popularity of Ramyun.

Inglehart-Welzel’s cultural map clearly signifies the transformation of society from collectivism to individualism by rapid development and globalisation in Korea. Such transformation is significant in demographics, particularly with a rapid increase in single households. By increasing the demand of single household food, HMR became a great player in the Korean food market, and Ramyun is identified as the most popular HMR food consumed in Korea because of its affordability, great varieties of flavour and convenience. Followed by social transformation towards individualism, concerns on well-being and health became considerable issues in consumer trend in Korea since 2010. Premium Ramyun varieties have been introduced in order to satisfy consumer demand and follow the dynamic changes of consumer trend.

Instant noodles have shown changes, particularly in flavours as it serves local cuisine in order to gain popularity domestically. Several points: Behaviour culture, culinary culture, government policy, marketing and promotion, demographic feature, consumption patterns visited in this thesis call for the relationship between culture and the success and popularity of Ramyun. And clearly explains instant noodle as a ‘trend-flow cultural invention’. Acknowledging this thesis as a preliminary work helps to understand instant noodles as a cultural phenomenon, and the significance of culture to the popularity of cultural product. I hope this academic piece provided a good introduction to future research. By tying culture and all factors visited in this thesis, Ramyun is then clearly a trend flow invention developed and highly culture-reflected that a discourse on the success and popularity of Ramyun cannot be detached from culture. Such conglomerate factors have established the present success of Ramyun, and all factors provided a platform for further development of Ramyun which consists of the present popularity of Ramyun in Korea.

6.2. Further research

This research is solely based on a literature review which addresses the need of primary data in order to obtain more detailed-data as it also increases the credibility of the study. Due to the time and word limitation of this research project, most of the data are explained briefly rather than in-depth. I envisage that this study can further extend its focuses towards other countries or regions as Ramyun has gained incredible success and popularity in other regions so that observation or analyses of such may provide further development of Ramyun.

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Appendix

Appendix 1: Contents of Instant noodle

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Soup powder (A), Vegetable flakes (B), Fried-noodle (C)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Vegetable flakes

Photos were taken by the author

Appendix 2: Instant noodle processing

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Created based on the data from (Kim 1996; Lu and Nip 2005)

Appendix 3: MSG Negative marketing advertisement

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenAbbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Images from (Song 2016) article

Appendix 4: Entertainer celebrities in ramyun advertisement and package

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten Left: I.O.I (girl group) in Paldo Kimchi Kingcup (Paldo 2016)

Right: Psy (singer) in Nongshim Shinramyun black (Nongshim Co.,Ltd 2012)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Hwang Jung-min (actor) in Ottogi Jin Jjampong (Ottogi Co.,Ltd n.d.)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Hye-ri (singer, actress) in Nongshim Neoguri (Nongshim 2016)

[...]


1 ‘Korea’ in this thesis refers to South Korea only.

2 ‘Cuisine’ is associated with society and culture, which is socially constructed to symbolise characteristics of certain identity, social status and ethnicity (Wu and Tan 2001). ‘Taste’ is understood as a central principle to the development of food preference in the society (Ventura and Worobey 2013) which leads to the establishment of distinctive ‘cuisine’ of the society. Thus, this thesis perceives taste as a major element of cultural form and that which differentiates cuisine by the society. For the definition and further understanding of ‘taste’, refer to footnote 4.

3 Globalisation has been viewed as a project, a reality, a process and a belief (Mattelart 2002) occurred the convergence of ‘particular’ culture and system into the ‘universal’ (Wallerstein 1990) that features inter-connectedness (Hannerz 1996) and hybridity (Bhabha 1994). Mass media has been marked as a leading factor of the globalisation of culture (Kraidy 2002). And Appadurai (1990) described cultural globalisation as ‘deterritorialisation’ and ‘homogenisation’ of culture. He further explains the power hierarchy in cultural globalisation which the core imposes its culture into the pheriphery – cultural imperialism; and close link between consumption and the spread of cultural globalisation (i.e.) Americanisation and commodification (Appadurai 1990) McDonaldisation (Ritzer 1993); Thus cultural globalisation is followed by the transformation and development of the culture. See the section 3.1 – formation of Korean behaviour culture throughout globalisation and political events; the section 4.3. – an influence and a power of mass media in popularisation and popularity of ramyun; the chapter 5 – changes in demographic feature, food consumption pattern and consumer demand.

4 The significance of consumer culture has been intensified by the wide-spread globalisation and increasing significance of economy in the society and individuals which has replaced political and ideological/theoretical concerns (Lu 2001) by the increasing significance of capitalism in the present era. I acknowledge mass media as a significant tool stimulated the consumption in the society, led the flow of consumer culture and contributed to the establishment of popular culture / mass culture.

5 ‘Taste’ can be defined by different aspects. This thesis adopts the definition of taste defined by Bradbury (2004) as “the sense by which the chemical qualities of food in the mouth are distinguished by the brain, based on information provided by the taste buds (Bradbury 2004).” Several factors have been identified in the formation of ‘taste’ such as culture, environment, genetics and many more which have had a significant contribution on the establishment of cuisine and culture in society (Fleming 2013). The concept often links to consumption, particularly in consumer behavior (Hoyer and Stokburger-Sauer 2012) as consumers’ ‘taste’ is perceived as a concept which classifies individuals’ social identity such as class, lifestyle, occupation, status (Ahuvia 2005; Bourdieu 1984: 56; Holt 1998: 4; Solomon 1983).

6 Chaebol stands for an owner and/or family who run large conglomerate corporations in Korea, often perceived as a symbol of ‘industrial monopoly’.

7 According to Yoon (2011), most Ramyun sold in Korea had a Japanese sweet and mild taste until the early 1980s. The survey conducted by Nongshim’s research team identifies Koreans’ favourite taste as oulkunhan-mat (spicy) and siwonhan-mat (cool – not by temperature but a refreshing and pleasurable taste after having soup dishes (Kang et al. 2016).

8 ‘Won’ refers to South Korean currency unit (Korean Won = KRW).

9 Applied the currency exchange rate of 1000 Korean Won(KRW) = 0.89 US Dollar(USD) – as of 24 September 2018. The exchange rate used is all KRW-USD in this thesis.

10 Similarly, the US helped to overcome Japan’s food scarcity and shortage in the early postwar period (also known as Occupation and Reconstruction period 1945-1952) of Japan (Solt 2010: 187-190). Large quantity of wheat flour supplied by the US encouraged consumption of flour-based food such as Bread, Dumpling, Noodles in Japan (Solt 2010: 193) – Japanese government announced “The era of flour has arrived (Dower 1999: 169)” in the mid-1946; and transformed Japanese dietary patterns (Solt 2010: 193). Noodle dishes were easy to obtain than rice dishes at pushcart stall (屋台) owing to less stringent regulations to flour-based foods by the government (Solt 2010: 194). Chinese food was conceived as nutritious and filling in the period (Cwiertka 2006: 113) and Ramen, with its origin based on Chinese food became increasingly popular in Japan (Solt 2010: 195).

11 Beef tallow was used as a frying base instead of palm oil or vegetable-based oil in Samyang ramyun and all other Samyang’s ramyun products until 1989 Samyang ramyun beef tallow incident. Samyang was suspected by use of beef tallow for industrial use in 1989 but the court acquitted Samyang in 1997.

12 Nongshim’s media advertising strategy was not solely based on celebrity endorsement but applied cultural and emotional appeals to consumers to gain public attraction. This may indicate that celebrity endorsement is not the best or the only effective approach in media advertising.

13 Celebrity endorsement is a method commonly used which certainly gain public attention as the feature of celebrities identifies particular cultural characteristics, reputation and characteristics (Freiden 1984). Such method is perceived as an effective marketing approach to promote product and brand in a short period and also leaves memory to consumers (Wang et al. 2013) which lead consumers’ purchase to the product and brands.

14 Maclnnis et al. (2002)’s explains a close link between product sales increase and media advertising as greater media weight evokes consumers’ attraction and feelings which lead to purchase of the advertising products.

15 Created by Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, who divided the country (society) into two major dimensions of cross-cultural variation as traditional versus secular-rational values, and survival values versus self-expression values. For more details: http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs.jsp

16 Inglehart (1997) defines post-materialist values as a value emphasising “individual self-expression and quality of life concerns” which concerns possession of material less than materialists.

17 Single-sumer = Single + Consumer; 1conomy = one-person household economy (Kim, et al., 2016); Naholo-jok = people prefer to do activities or things alone (≒loner); For me jok = Young working active consumers enjoys consumption ‘For health, One (An individual), Recreation, More convenience, Expensive’ (Chosun Weekly BIZ 2016).

18 Mukbang is a compounded word of Mukda (eating) + Bangsong (TV broadcasting program) which describes eating programs on TV.

19 HMR refers to processed, cooked and packaged food for convenient food cooking and preparation by consumers, assorted under categories of RTP (Ready to prepare) / RTC (Ready to cook) / RTH (Ready to heat) / RTE (Ready to eat) (aT 2017a; The Nielsen Company 2015). Costa et al. (2001) provides classification system of HMR by convenience and shelf life in Table 3 and 4.

20 Most Korean convenient stores operate 24/7, located at residential and/or business area offering a wide range of food and goods.

21 Jin and Suh (2005) assert PB food products are particularly more affected by keeping lower prices rather than providing similar quality to non-PB brand.

22 Zeodration is a new cold-drying process known to preserve flavor, colour and structure of ingredients (Gadonna-Widehem et al. 2009).

23 A term describes a consumer who modifies products or goods by their preference. ‘Modisumer’ is a compound word of modify + consumer used in Korea. For example, modisumers modify the original recipe of the food product and re-create food by their own preference such as mixing different flavours of Ramyun (Shin, 2014); transform soup-type noodle to a fried noodle by reducing water (Lee 2014); reduce or replace different seasoning; adding different ingredients and many more.

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Details

Title
The success and the popularity of instant noodle (ramyun) in South Korea
College
University of New South Wales, Sydney
Author
Year
2018
Pages
70
Catalog Number
V584815
ISBN (Book)
9783346167446
Language
English
Tags
Instant noodle, Ramyun, Korean food, Food consumption, Food culture
Quote paper
Youri Oh (Author), 2018, The success and the popularity of instant noodle (ramyun) in South Korea, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/584815

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