After Chuseok, Koreans will face further restaurant inflation

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A family of four prepare to board a train at Seoul Station on Thursday, ahead of a four-day Chuseok holiday break. (Yonhap)

With inflation showing no signs of abating, South Koreans are likely to suffer a greater financial burden when eating out after the Chuseok holiday, as even low-cost foods like gimbap see their prices rise.

The average price of gimbap, one of the most budget-friendly meals, in Seoul jumped 2.6% to top 3,000 won ($2.2) in August from a month earlier, according to data from Korean Consumer Agency.

Among restaurant meals, the price of pork belly increased the most, from 18,056 won to 18,364 won for a 200-gram serving during the cited period. Kimchi jjigae with rice and a side dish saw a 1% increase to 7,500 won.

The price of jjajangmyeon, or dark soy sauce noodles, remained the same as July (6,300 won), but saw by far the biggest price increase from a year ago.

Data from Statistics Korea showed the average cost of restaurant meals soared 8.8%, a record figure since October 1992.

Grocery prices have also skyrocketed. The cost of cereals climbed 13%, while ready-made soup and mayonnaise climbed 6.7% and 6.6%, respectively.

Ramyeon, or Korean instant noodles, is also expected to see a price increase.

Nongshim, the country’s top ramyeon maker, recently said it would raise the price of Shin Ramyun and 25 other instant noodles by an average of 11.3 percent from September 15. For example, a batch of five packs of ramyeon priced at around 6,000 won will increase to 6,678 won.

Paldo also announced plans to raise the price of ramyeon by an average of 9.8 percent from Oct. 1, citing rising raw material and logistics costs. Paldo Bibimmyeon’s price will drop from around 4,000 won to 4,392 won. The price of a bowl of branded Wangttukkung noodles will also increase by 11%.

Industry sources say other ramyeon makers, including Ottogi and Samyang, will likely raise prices after the Chuseok holiday that started Friday and will run until September 12.

Park Na-yeon, a 32-year-old white-collar worker, said, “It seems like everything is getting so expensive except my salary. I have to pay around 8,000-9,000 won to eat ramyeon and gimbap these days. I get why people go crazy over half price chicken.

Supermarket chains promoted precooked chickens for around 5,000 won, which caused an “open race” for them. An open rush is a term in Korea that refers to when customers rush into stores as soon as they open to get their hands on their desired item.

Experts say inflation may not have peaked yet due to the weak won and geopolitical uncertainties sparked by the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.

“The weakness of the dollar earned against the dollar leads to a trade deficit and high costs of importing raw materials, which pushes inflation. This, in turn, could worsen the already bad government and household deficit situation,” said Cho Dong-geun, an economics professor at Myungji University.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)

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