In the romantic comedy Korea drama, Choegoeui Chikin 최고의 치킨 (Best Chicken, MBN, 2019), Park Choi-go’s dream is opening his own fried chicken restaurant. He pompously quits his job working as an employee at a large corporation to pursue his dream. Although the idea of typing away at the keyboard in office cubicles to frying chickens in the kitchen may seem like an extraordinary transition, it’s actually one of the most popular post-career choices Korean people seek after retirement.
Why? Knowing how much Koreans love fried chicken and beer combo chimaek, it shouldn’t come as a surprise from a pure business perspective, but there’s more to it. Korean people have the tendency to identify themselves with the job they have, and the workplace is an extension of their home. For this reason, they have the notion of “lifelong jobs,” and pursuing a continuous single career is considered a virtue. With the life expectancy going up every year and with the “60 is the new 50” idea in effect, Koreans still want to and have to remain economically active to support their post-retirement life (legal retirement age is 65 in Korea). So what do they do? Having pursued a single career, trying something new seems dangerous, so naturally, they are compelled to choose something anybody can do – a franchise fried chicken restaurant.
Or, you can turn regular fried chicken into Korean Fried Chicken with these KPOP Foods Variety Sauce Set -KPOP Gochujang Sauce, Kimchi Spicy Mayo, Honey Glaze Chili Garlic [Amazon]
The biggest merit is that it’s supposedly a turn-key business – the franchise headquarter will set everything up for you, from selecting the location to marketing to interior design. You can just focus on frying chickens and receive a stable stream of income. What’s not to love? In reality, it’s not as rosy as it sounds. The competition is fierce – there are over 409 fried chicken franchise brands and over 87,000 stores, and 14,509 of their stores are in Seoul alone.
For comparison, there are 1,350 Lotteria Burger stores (their bulgogi burger 불고기 버거 is awesome, and you can only find it in Korea, but you can replicate the taste with this amazing SEOUL Korean BBQ Bulgogi Sauce, 13.2 OZ [Amazon]), 436 McDonald’s stores, and 442 Domino’s Pizza stores in Korea. As a result, it truly became a “game of chicken,” and there are more stores that close than open because if you factor in the franchise fees and royalties, it’s usually the franchise that’s making money. So in a sense, the abundance of fried chicken restaurants shows the reality of the limited post-retirement options Korean people have.