Without coffee mix, coffee would probably never have grown so popular in Korea. Coffee was first introduced to Korea in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the country began to open its doors to the West. Instant coffee was smuggled into marketplaces from U.S. military bases after the Korean War, but coffee remained an occasional treat, served when guests were invited. But when Dongsuh Food launched its own instant coffee in 1970, coffee instantly became a national drink. Before then there were popular traditional beverages like sujeonggwa (fruit punch), sweet rice drink, barley tea and ginger tea, but none were so favored as a dessert drink the way coffee was.
In 1976, Dongsuh Food invented "coffee mix" -- a single-serving packet of coffee mixed with sugar and powdered milk -- for the first time in the world. Doctors warn that drinking too much of it can increase the likelihood of heart disease, but Koreans cannot seem to turn away from the convenience of coffee mix. Despite the burgeoning of fancy takeout coffee shops like Starbucks, which offer superior taste with freshly brewed coffee, instant coffee accounts for around 90 percent of all coffee consumed in Korea.
Emphasis is placed on speed rather than taste for instant ramen as well. Samyang Ramen was launched in 1963, the first of its kind in Korea. In 1998 the instant noodle market totaled W1 trillion, the first single item ever to reach that milestone, and in 2005 an average of 70 bags of ramen were consumed per person, the largest number for a single item in the world.
The success of jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce), a popular Korean dish which is believed to originate from China's zha jiang mian, is also based on speed. It takes just three minutes to produce one bowl of jajangmyeon, and it starts to get soggy three minutes after it has been made, so people have little choice but to eat it quickly. In his book "A Story of Jajangmyeon," Yang Se-uk, a research professor of Chinese language and literature at Hanyang University, called the dish an ideal food for industrialization, saying there is no other food that is more suitable for workers who need to eat fast so they can return to the factory or office as soon as possible.