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Soaring lunch prices put burden on salaried workers

2012/01/14 | 467 views |  | Permalink | Source

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By Lee Hyo-sik

Kim Sun-young, a 33-year-old salaried worker at a Japanese bank in downtown Seoul, usually goes to a cafeteria, located in the building's basement, for lunch.

These days it is the price she is attracted to as the cafeteria only charges 3,500 won, almost half what it costs to eat at other restaurants and eateries in the bustling business district.

"I am big fan of kimchi jjigae, or kimchi soup, and bibimbap, rice with a mixture of vegetables and meat, among other Korean foods. I used to eat these dishes at my favorite restaurants nearby the office building for lunch every day. But over the past year skyrocketing prices of vegetable and other food ingredients make eating out unaffordable", said the worker, who lives in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.

She said about a year ago, her favorite dishes cost from 5,000 ($4.30) to 7,000 won. "Now their price tags range from 7,000 to 10,000 won. For a salaried employee like me, it is not easy to spend 10,000 won daily for lunch. I am even considering asking my mom to pack a lunchbox. But she won't like it".

Like Kim, many salaried workers here are feeling the pinch of surging food prices while their income grows at a snail's pace.

According to a joint survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and Statistics Korea, the price of kimchi jjigae rose by 1.2 percent on average nationwide to 5,403 won in December, compared to September.

The nationwide average price of bibimbap jumped 1 percent to 5,815 won last month from September, while that of naengmyeon, (cold noodles) and jajangmyeon, (noodles in black bean sauce with meat and vegetables) stood at 6,404 won and 4,078 won respectively, both up 0.3 percent.

"In 2011, large restaurant chains and mom-and-pop eateries alike were forced to pass the extra cost in grain and other groceries onto customers amid skyrocketing expenses. The trend will likely continue this year, making it more and more expensive for Koreans to dine out", a ministry official said.

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