Brunch Blows Up in the Land of Kimchee

Where’s the least likely place in the world to embrace New York–style brunch? Darfur? Well, sure. There would be a lot of logistical problems involved in getting H&H bagels to the genocide-riven western stretches of Sudan. Myanmar? OK, that is also very unlikely. The chaotic interior of the Congo? A fair point as well.

So, maybe South Korea isn’t such a strange place for brunch to boom. But it’s certainly somewhere near the middle of the pack of candidates, if not trending toward the bottom quartile. However former New Yorker Park Su Ji managed to surmount the mildly challenging odds and lead her nostalgia-powered brunch joint to commercial success, according to a story in the International Herald Tribune.

Park said that she had thought her place would primarily attract Western expatriates. But two years later, scores of restaurants in Seoul offer, or even specialize in, brunch — and they are filled with South Koreans. Restaurant owners and local newspapers say there may be as many as 200 such restaurants now.

The contraction of the Korean workweek from six to five days has created something known as “the weekend,” and with the weekend comes an inherent demand for ways to relax and embrace the relative calm. Inspired by Sex and the City and other such meretricious Western entertainment products, Koreans grabbed hold of the French toast in 2005 and show no sign of letting go.

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