Chinese tourists not impressed with Korean food

March 20, 2015

Visitors did not like grilled fish, naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodle), gukbap (soup with rice), ssambap (vegetable-wrapped rice), and doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew).

Lee Ae-ran, standing, watches a group of people enjoying North Korean food in Neungna Bapsang in Jongno, Seoul. / Courtesy of Neungna Bapsang

According to the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, 810 foreigners who visited Korea last year, 350 of them from China, graded Korean cuisine at 74.4 out of 100. (Korea Times file)

By Kim Rahn

Korean food, or hansik, is emerging as a trendy cuisine in many parts of the world, and it is on top of foreigners’ minds when they think about Korea.

However, a recent survey showed that Korean foods that foreign visitors have experienced were not as good as they thought they would be.

According to the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, 810 foreigners who visited Korea last year graded Korean cuisine at 74.4 out of 100.

It conducted the survey on 350 Chinese, 120 Japanese, 190 Asians from other countries except China and Japan, 59 Americans, 43 Europeans and 41 others. The numbers were decided according to the ratio of visitors to Korea.

By region, Americans gave the highest score, 82.4, followed by Japanese, 78.5; Europeans, 77.8; others, 76.3; and Asians except for Japanese and Chinese, 76.2.

But Chinese, who take up the largest portion among foreign travelers here, were not very satisfied with Korean food, giving it a collective 70.

“We presume Chinese showed low satisfaction because a relatively higher ratio of them came here with cheap package tour programs than people from other countries,” a researcher at the institute said.

“Such package programs usually include meals at cheap restaurants that admit group tourists, rather than decent, or locally famous restaurants.”

During their stays in Korea, 72.5 percent of the respondents said they had bibimbap (rice mixed with assorted vegetable), while 60.6 percent had bulgogi (grilled beef); 57.2 percent, samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly); 51.2 percent, fried chicken; 51 percent, tteok (rice cakes); and 46.4 percent, gimbap (dried seaweed roll), with multiple replies being allowed.

Japanese liked galbi (marinated beef strips) the most, while Chinese liked samgyeopsal; other Asians, bibimbap; and Americans and Europeans, bulgogi.

What the visitors did not like the most was grilled fish, followed by naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodle), gukbap (soup with rice), ssambap (vegetable-wrapped rice), and doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew).

In an earlier research conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange on 5,600 people in 14 countries, 17.2 percent said that K-pop came to their mind when they think of Korea. Korean food came in second, followed by high-tech information technology, soap operas and beauty treatment.


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