International restaurants sprouting up in Korea

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International restaurants sprouting up in Korea

As demand for international cuisine has increased, the number of restaurants run by foreigners in Korea is growing fast, according to data from the Seoul city government.

According to the data, the number of international restaurants operated by foreign owners has risen by more than 10 times in the last 10 years, from 182 to 1,956 since 2000. The government also said the number of foreign residents in Seoul has quadrupled to about 260,000 in 2010.

A Nepali owner of a Nepali-Indian restaurant was busy greeting guests near Dongdaemun Market on a recent weekday and said things have changed in recent years.

“When I opened this restaurant eight years ago, there were only two Nepalese restaurants near here and the customers were all South Asian,” he said. “Now more than 10 restaurants are run by indigenous people. In Nepal, Seoul is known as a good place to open a restaurant because Seoulites increasingly enjoy exotic cuisines.”

According to the owner, 95 percent of his customers are Koreans.

An owner of a Turkish restaurant in southern Seoul, who came to Korea 12 years ago, said he has many Korean guests who are eager to enjoy his restaurant’s atmosphere.

One regular there, Han Young-yoon, said: “Since I visited Turkey a few years ago, I have come here from time to time. Friends of mine also love this restaurant because we can enjoy more authentic food and atmosphere.”

With the increasing number of international restaurants, the government plans to distribute manuals in English and Chinese on food sanitation laws to foreign owners. Translations of the food laws have been almost nonexistent until now.

“I have seen burgeoning ethnic restaurants in Seoul recently with little government support or regulation,” said Tenzing Deleck, 35, owner of Potala, a Tibetan-Indian restaurant in Myeong-dong. “Unfortunately, the government subsidies tend to be monopolized by a few foreign owners. I hope the new measures will be more inclusive.”

The Seoul government will also provide financial and administrative assistance to Korean restaurants so they can print English-language menus with the expectation of an increase in foreigners coming to Seoul for upcoming events such as the G-20 Summit.


By Kim Hee-jin, Kim Hye-mi [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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