Naengmyeon prices skyrocket thanks to summit

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Naengmyeon prices skyrocket thanks to summit

Prices of naengmyeon, or cold buckwheat noodles, jumped by a wide margin over last year, thanks to increased attention due to the inter-Korean summit and the blazing-hot summer.

Accumulated price data from Statistics Korea showed that naengmyeon prices rose by 4.5 percent in June the year before and 4.3 percent in July nationwide. June’s rate of increase was the second-highest recorded after March 2012, which saw 5.3 percent growth. At the end of every month, the government office collects prices from 148 restaurants specializing in naengmyeon as part of its consumer price tracking.

Until last year, monthly price hikes to the dish remained around 2 percent. But naengmyeon was unusually popular this year, causing prices to increase in the 3-percent starting in February (3.2 percent) through March (3.6 percent). It continued to increase even before summer started, reaching 4.2 percent in April and 4.1 percent in May.

According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the average price for the cold noodles in July was 8,808 won ($7.80) in Seoul.

The increase was even higher in Seoul, as naengmyeon prices rose at double the nation’s average during the same period. Between April and June, the prices shot up to between 7.1 and 7.6 percent year-on-year. July’s figure was 6.3 percent. In Incheon, prices rose by more than 7 percent from April through July.

The price hikes were largely led by a rise in demand. The first factor was the inter-Korean summit in April, when South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were served naengmyeon in Pyeongyang style as the key dish of their banquet. This raised the food’s profile, creating long queues of people in front of naengmyeon restaurants which continued for days after the event.

The record heat in the following few months also pushed more people toward cold noodle restaurants. Afternoon temperatures reached nearly 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) starting in July, and this summer is already going down in the record books as Korea’s hottest in 111 years.

Statistics from the Korea Consumer Agency released earlier this month also showed that naengmeyon prices increased the most in July among eight popular restaurant items in Seoul, including pork belly and samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup, which is a steady seller in the summer.

The popularity of naengmyeon was also evident in sales of ready-made products. CJ CheilJedang sold 10 billion won worth of instant naengmyeon in July alone, a record high and a 22 percent increase compared to the same period last year. Nongshim, which also sells instant naengmyeon, saw a year-on-year sales increase of 45 percent.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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