[FOUNTAIN]Two countries, one ramenInstant noodles were born in Japan on August 25, 1958, under the name Chicken Ramen. The father was Momofuku Ando, the founder and chairman of Nissin Food Products Co.
Many Japanese were starving in those days and Mr. Ando was determined not to let his people suffer. At the time, a large amount of flour came as assistance from the United States, but Japanese were not used to having bread as a meal. Instead, Mr. Ando thought of using the superfluous flour to make inexpensive, tasty and long-lasting noodles. He got the inspiration from his wife’s tempura after a tiring period of trial and error. His wife said, “When you fry flour, the moisture evaporates and the noodles last longer. It tastes better and is cheaper to make.”
The ramen-making recipe, named “flash frying,” was born that way.
The first ramen in Korea was born in Seoul on Sept. 15, 1963. Its name was Samyang Ramyeon. Jeon Jung-yun, the chairman of Samyang Foods Co., decided to invent instant noodles one day in 1961 at Namdaemun Market. After the Korean War, many Koreans were starving as well. As he watched the people lining up to buy the porridge made up of leftovers from U.S. military bases, he thought he would not let anyone suffer from hunger. The United Nations sent wheat flour as aid. Mr. Jeon focused on inventing instant noodles.
In the spring of 1963, he met with Kiyosumi Okui, the president of Myojo Food in Japan. “Attributed to the Korean War, Japan could have been recovered and I would like to help out to pay back.” Mr. Okui transferred the technology free of charge. It was the first free technology cooperation between Korea and Japan. This is how ramyeon, which changed the taste and eating habits of Koreans, was born.
The similarities of instant noodles between Korea and Japan start with aging founders, Mr. Ando at 96 and Mr. Jeon at 88, and their sympathy with the poor. The similarity ends there. Nissin Foods Products Co. has the largest market share in Japan, with revenue of 247.2 billion yen. In contrast, Samyang Foods Co. did not get along with the administration and was hit by the so-called beef tallow scandal in 1989, later filing for bankruptcy. Last September, the company was put out for sale in the M&A market. Nissin Foods Products tried aggressively to buy it. The Korea Teachers Credit Union took it.
On April 11, the World Ramen Assembly was held in Seoul. The leading instant noodle makers gathered together. Mr. Ando attended, but Mr. Jeon did not.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.