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What Price Is Right? For Korean Fried Chicken?

With the rising cost of living due to the country's highest inflation rate in years, Koreans are flocking to their local supermarkets in droves to queue up for their beloved fried chicken. The country's top three largest supermarket chains E-mart, Homeplus, and Lotte Mart have started slashing prices on fried chicken buckets for a limited amount. Koreans have left no stone unturned to find the cheapest price for their fried chicken, including in supermarkets.

Homeplus's "Dangdang Chicken" sold at a very low price of ₩6,990 ($5.23) (Homeplus)
Homeplus's "Dangdang Chicken" sold at a very low price of ₩6,990 ($5.23) (Homeplus)

Customers stood in lines up to an hour before stores opened in hopes to get their hands on a bucket of fried chicken. One woman in her 60s, Kyung Ja (not real name) stood in line among 40 other people outside an E-mart waiting for her turn to buy a bucket for ₩5,980 ($4.47).

E-mart has been selling a limited quantity of chicken twice a day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.- between 40 - 50 buckets - in a promotional event that started last week. (Korean Herald)

Customers wait in line at a local Homeplus for fried chicken
Customers wait in line at a local Homeplus for fried chicken

The top three biggest Korean fried chicken chains BBQ, BHC, and Kyochon have been increasing their costs by ₩1,000 - ₩2,000 for similar-sized buckets. Those buckets usually cost around ₩20,000 ($14.98), far higher than the local supermarkets mentioned above. Add delivery and application fees on top of that, and a bucket of chicken can cost around ₩25,000 ($18.72) have Koreans outraged.

Traditional Korean fried chicken from Kyochon (Kyochon)
Traditional Korean fried chicken from Kyochon (Kyochon)

According to experts, "₩20,000 ($14.98) appears to be a psychologically significant level for Koreans, largely due to the perception of fried chicken as soul food for all – rich or poor." (Korean Herald)

“Koreans love fried chicken not just for its taste, but for its more affordable price compared to pork and beef.”

- Kim Tae-ki, an economics professor at Dankook University, Seoul

What's a fair price for chicken?

Given the recent economic impact, the price hike is understandable. The real question is how chicken franchises and delivery apps find ways to create lower costs for their customers, a scholar suggested. In 2021, the nation's top three major fried chicken franchises amassed a combined revenue of 1.3 trillion won ($973 billion), up 15% from a year earlier!

So how can fried chicken prices go through the roof although the price of raw chicken has remained relatively the same (only a ₩460 or $0.34 in the past decade)? Although the cost of raw chicken has not increased over the last decade, the price of other ingredients, rent, and labor has increased. As of Aug 7, the price of flour rose 36.4% while cooking oil prices rose 55.6%, according to Statistics Korea.

Many mom-and-pop chicken owners are feeling the blowback from supermarket chains lowering the prices of their fried chicken buckets. Local owners are complaining that their stores cannot compete with rock bottom prices and have been losing customers to those stores.

Check out this crazy vlog about "Dangdang Chicken"!

Have you tried Korean fried chicken? If so, what is your favorite? Let us know!


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