'K-pop' and kimchi invade Southeast Asia

One enterprising Thai entertainment star is capitalizing on the popularity of Korean culture in Thailand with the introduction of Korean cuisine.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Thai actress and model Sasikarn Apichartvorasilp hopes to ride a pop culture wave sweeping her homeland by importing Korean cuisine.

Korean culture – pop music, soap operas, and movies – has taken hold in much of Asia in recent years. This is particularly true across Southeast Asian nations, such as Thailand and the Philippines, where hallyu (Korean cultural exports) have captured hearts, minds, and now taste buds.

The trend appears to hold so much potential that the popular Ms. Apichartvorasilp announced she is largely leaving the entertainment industry to focus on a joint venture with her family’s restaurant business and South Korea’s Eweon Group to open a casual dining chain called Korean Tudari.

At a Tudari restaurant newly opened in Bangkok, the interior gleams ultra-modernity with its cement floors and exposed lighting as “K-pop” (Korean pop music) pulses in the background.

It has already drawn larger than expected crowds with its fast-food menu, which puts Korean favorites such as naegmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles) and kimchi (fermented cabbage) alongside other international fare such as fish and chips.

Apichartvorasilp believes that her venture could result in 1,000 Korean-style restaurants around Thailand within a decade.

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