K-pop fever drives growth of Korean businesses in Indonesia

PHOTO: K-pop fever drives growth of Korean businesses in Indonesia

JAKARTA - Besides the Korean pop (K-pop) music playing on the radio, Jakarta residents can now enjoy a wide range of Korean business establishments in major shopping malls across the city as the popularity of Korean popular culture continues to grow.

Take Ccozi & Friends as an example. The restaurant, located in Gandaria City mall in South Jakarta, is designed to spoil lovers of K-pop and Korean drama (K-drama) by continually running Korean music events and TV shows on two flatscreen televisions during operating hours.

Risma, 20, a waitress at the restaurant, said that most of the customers who came to Ccozi & Friends were K-pop-loving teenagers. They dined at the restaurant to enjoy the cuisine that came from the country of their idols, she added.

"They [the teenagers] mostly come on weekends, particularly on Saturday night. But we also have adult customers occasionally," she said.

The restaurant opened in August 2009, at the same time as Gandaria City mall. Ccozi & Friends is not alone, as there are several other stores and eateries offering Korean food and products in the shopping centre, such as Tous les Jours bakery and Abgujong restaurant.

Korean cosmetics outlets like Etude House and The Face Shop are also riding the wave. In a bid to draw K-pop fans into their stores, they had put up big posters of their brand ambassadors, Choi Min-ho, a member of SHINee, and Kim Hyun-joong of SS501.

Korean retailer Lotte Mart has also spread its wings in Jakarta. Currently, it has six stores across the city.

Korean fast food outlets like BonChon Chicken and Lotteria have also taken hold in the city. BonChon chicken, for example, has so far opened six stores, located at Grand Indonesia, City Walk, Kota Kasablanka, Lippo Kemang mall, Gandaria City and Central Park.

Chicken restaurant Kyo Chon is the latest Korean chain to spring up in Jakarta. Located in the upscale mall Pacific Place, Kyo Chon opened its first Jakarta branch on Tuesday to cater to both the local middle-class and Korean expatriates.

Kyo Chon Indonesia is part of the Wahana Artha Group, which also owns Japanese restaurant Hanamasa and Singapore-based Ya Kun Kaya Toast, said group director Robbyanto Budiman.

Robbyanto gave assurances that all food in the restaurant was halal, but Kyo Chon could not obtain certification because the restaurant sold beer. "But we will get the halal certificate for our express counter," he said, adding that the company planned to open 10 outlets within one year and 50 more by 2017.

The presence of Korean stores in Jakarta is actually not a new phenomenon. Mu Gung Hwa supermarket, for instance, has been around for more than 30 years. The store, located on Jl. Senopati in South Jakarta, sells various Korean brand groceries.

Heru, 35, a sales clerk who has been working at the supermarket for 10 years, said that around 80 per cent of Mu Gung Hwa's customers were Koreans living in the capital city. They came in to look for products they usually enjoyed in their home country, he added.

"We also have Indonesian customers, although not many," he said.

Abe, 58, a Japanese customer who lives in Pancoran, South Jakarta, said that he regularly came to Mu Gung Hwa to purchase Korean foods and beverages because they were a lot cheaper than Japanese brands.

"The price of this tomato juice, for example, is one third of that of Japanese brands," he said, showing a red bottle with hangul (Korean traditional characters) written all over it.