Korean restaurants sprout as popularity of K-culture rises

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‘Korean cuisine tastes like Indian food’

Korean restaurants in Bengaluru have been witnessing increased footfalls with the rising popularity of Korean pop culture and  food in the city.

  A large number of new Korean restaurants have sprung up in the city within the past few years. 

Nirmal Tamang, the manager of Hae Kum Gang, a Korean restaurant in Ashok Nagar, informed The Observer: “We opened our restaurant in 2004. At that time,  Hae Kum Gang was one of the first Korean restaurants in the city. But recently so many new restaurants have opened up.”

Dofu is one such restaurant in Indiranagar. It opened   in December 2019.  In a short time, the restaurant has gained a loyal customer base.

Marina K H, the owner of Dofu, explained: “I think the reason is very evident. Korean cuisine tastes very similar to Indian cuisine. There’s the same boom of flavour, a lot of drama in the cuisine.” 

“Another reason is, of course, that exposure to Korean culture is very high today. The world has become global in terms of lifestyle and culture. You need not visit a place physically. Just by watching something on television or listening to their music can give you a taste of it,” she added.

Ashana Mehta, a college student, shared: “I discovered Korean food after I started watching K-dramas. In most of these dramas, you get to see all this Korean food like jjajangmyeon, bibimbap, tteokbokki and of course kimchi.” However, there aren’t many cheap options available when it comes to Korean cuisine. The food available in the city is usually  quite expensive  

Another drawback of Korean cuisine is that it does not cater to the vegetarian population. 

Anjali Shrivastava,  a vegetarian, said: “I wanted to try Korean food because of all its hype. But I could not find many vegetarian options. Even veg ramyeon had egg in it.”

Many Korean restaurants have recently seen a rise in their sales because of  the ‘Korean wave’.

Shashwat Kumar, the manager of Himalayan Korean Restaurant in Koramangala, said: “Our restaurant opened  in 2017 but for the past two years, our sales have started to grow as more and more local people are willing to try Korean food now.”

Many restaurants use the popularity of Korean TV shows and music as a marketing strategy to get a customer base.

Eeshani Joshi,   Korean food and culture enthusiast, said: “It is definitely because of the Korean wave that these restaurants are getting so popular. Some of the small Korean food places are solely dedicated to K-pop and K-drama artists. There is always K-pop music playing in restaurants. That is why people like me always go back to such places.”

Roaf Mir,   a professor of cultural studies at Jain University,  Bengaluru, explained: “We call it cultivation theory. Basically, if you watch or engage with a particular kind of media for a long time, you start to cultivate their culture as well. You start to develop the same perspectives as them. That is the reason why Korean dramas and music have impacted our culture so much today.”

“Another thing is that culture, history, food, language are things that we call soft power. These are considered ways that shape someone’s ideas and preferences through attraction. Cultural dominance among countries is as important as political dominance, and in this area, Korea is clearly winning,” he added.

The Korean wave started in India in the late 1990s or early 2000s, especially in northeast India. Today, the Korean influence has expanded to the entire country.

A recent Netflix study done in India tracks a 370 percent increase in the number of Indians watching K-dramas. Moreover, Spotify’s 2020 data puts BTS, a K-pop band, as the fourth most streamed boy band in India. Because of this, more and more Bengalureans are getting familiar with Korean culture and are willing to try Korean food.



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