Two characters eat a Korean instant noodle product in the record-breaking Netflix original movie “Squid Game.” Such scenes appear to boost the popularity of Korean instant noodles outside of the country. Photo courtesy of Netflix

1st half shipment jumped almost 20% from a year ago

The export of South Korean instant noodle products hit a record high during the first six months of this year, according to the Korea Customs Service this week.

South Korea exported instant noodles valued at 497.6 billion won ($383 million) over the January-June period, up 19.9 percent from a year ago.

China was the biggest importer as they snapped up Korean instant noodles worth $92 million, chased by the United States with $48 million and Japan with $30 million.

Asian countries also remained atop the list, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia.

The overseas shipment of Korean instant noodles started jumping since 2015, and the pace accelerated after COVID-19 made people cook at home instead of visiting restaurants.

Back then, observers expected the popularity of Korean instant noodles would go down once the novel coronavirus came under control. But they appear to be wrong.

“I think that the popularity of Korean instant noodles is related to the success of Korean culture, like dramas and movies,” Prof. Lee Eun-hee at Inha University Professor said.

“For example, characters ‘Squid Game’ eat Korean instant noodles. I guess that foreign viewers wanted to eat them just like characters of the highly-successful Netflix drama.”

“Squid Game” is the most successful Netflix drama, which debuted late last year. It was produced in Korea.

To meet the mounting demand for Korean instant noodles, the country’s manufacturers have built plants outside of the country.

For one, business bellwether Nongshim opened its second U.S. factory in California this year to rack up its annual capacity there to 850 million packs from 350 million.

Hillary Lee studied literature in Seoul. Lee has big interests on various topics including IT, BT, business and finance. Lee can be reached at homin30@hanmail.net or 82-2-6956-6698.