January 13, 2023 09:51
Inflation is taking its toll of office workers in downtown Seoul, who now have to fork out on average W15,000 for their lunch bowl (US$1=W1,246).
According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the average price of a meal in downtown Seoul last month increased 11.1 percent compared to a year ago, but the increase feels much higher on the ground.
It is getting impossible to find a meal for less than W10,000. The Chosun Ilbo checked prices in 15 restaurants around City Hall and Mugyo-dong in central Seoul on Thursday and found that only six sell meals for under W10,000. Even traditionally affordable bowls of kalguksu (Korean-style noodle soup) or seolleongtang (ox bone soup) now often cost more than that.
One office worker in downtown Seoul lamented on Thursday after stepping out of a restaurant after lunch, "I can't believe a bowl of naengmyeon (cold noodles) costs W15,000. I won't be having that often any more."
The restaurant hiked the price of cold noodles at the start of the new year after raising it by W1,000 last year to reflect rising costs of buckwheat, flour and eggs and increased wages.
Groceries tend to be more expensive in Seoul than other big cities worldwide, but restaurant dishes used to be cheaper. But due to soaring inflation and the weak Japanese yen, they are now more expensive than in Tokyo and Osaka.
According to crowd-sourced global database Numbeo, Seoul ranks 18th out of 118 cities in Asia when it comes to restaurant food prices, above Tokyo (23rd) and Osaka (26th).
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