Fried chicken and beer has become a wildly popular combination in South Korea, creating a boom for Korean chicken producers. But, as Ryan Brooks reports, foreign firms eyeing the market could put serious pressure on a market already awash with local birds.
The world's catching on to South Korea's craving for fried chicken and beer. The combination, known as "chimek" has become a national favourite... good news for restaurants and franchisers... but there's a flipside. With more and more farmers wanting to cash in on the trend - there's now an oversupply of chickens in the country... sparking a price war just as Seoul re-introduces even cheaper birds from abroad. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) MANAGING DIRECTOR AT HARIM, PARK JU-NO, SAYING: "The so-called game of chicken is really happening in the industry. We think it's more crucial to focus on quality differentiation to survive instead of adjusting production, even though it contributes to a glut." Beer and chicken as a concept is a Western import... But in recent years it's become as Korean as kimchi... ....spawning stores on practically every street in Seoul. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) DIRECTOR GENERAL AT KOREA CHIMAC INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, CHOI SUNG-NAM, SAYING: "KFC makes people follow its own taste whereas Korean chicken companies try to offer a menu suited to local people, whether they're from China, Thailand or the U.S.. They use market research and develope various menus." Regardless of who wins or loses in the poultry war- Customers and chimek restaurants win on price... And another South Korean phenomenon is helping spread the trend abroad. Hit TV drama "My Love From the Stars," is widely popular, especially in China.... and it's main character is hooked on chicken and beer. Just one reason why Korea's top chimek chain tells Reuters - it plans to one day have more stores around the world... than MacDonalds.