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[From the Scene] McDonald's Korea retraces 35-year journey at special book talkBy Moon Joon-hyun
Published : Aug. 16, 2023 - 15:44
McDonald's Korea on Monday held a special book talk event in Jung-gu, Seoul, to delve into "McDonald's 35 Years of Brand Story in Korea," the two-volume series published last month for the fast food chain's 35th anniversary in Korea.
During the event, author Kang Han-ki and McDonald's Korea's Senior Director of Corporate Relations Shim Nari, who spearheaded the development of the book, shed some light on the book's development.
“Such a project usually takes years. Ours took just 10 months, thanks to our team’s dedication, extensive database and trove of over 400,000 materials,” said Shim. The team also conducted extensive interviews, encompassing a diverse range of contributors from present and past McDonald's employees to suppliers and journalists.
A unique challenge was eliciting stories from dedicated customers, Shim said. Her team launched an Instagram event encouraging fans to submit their stories. A total of 30 such stories, featuring narratives from avid collectors of items like Happy Meal toys and tray mats, made it to the first volume.
The first part of the series with the Big Mac cover, "The Brand Storybook," offers readers a view into McDonald's product innovations, marketing tactics and customer stories. The red-colored second part, "The History" book chronicles the brand's significant milestones in Korea. Although it is not available for purchase, "The History Book" can be accessed in public libraries nationwide.
Author Kang shared intriguing tidbits during the talk. In 1988, when McDonald’s first launched in Apgujeong, the posh shopping district in southern Seoul, the Big Mac's price of 2,400 won ($1.8) was perceived as upscale, especially when compared to the then-cost of local dishes, such as jajangmyeon at 800 won.
One of the unknown challenges McDonald's faced prior to its Korean launch was ingredient negotiation with the South Korean government, particularly of beef and potatoes, author Kang said. The local government advocated for locally sourced ingredients, but McDonald’s insisted on using the Russet Burbank potatoes from the Northwestern regions of the US and conducted blind tests, to win over South Korean officials.
Shim also shared more details on the "Made For You" system featured in the brand story, a hallmark of operational efficiency that McDonald's is known for, and one that is especially important in Korea where customers prioritize quick service. From 2007 to 2012, the company took five years to comprehensively implement a new system where burgers are cooked on-demand within a minute of ordering rather than being pre-made and reheated. She stressed that McDonald's did not market this new system until it was adopted by over 90 percent of its outlets.
"Our motto has always been to embed McDonalds’ in Korea, and not remain as another ‘tourist’ international chain. The storybook is a testament to this commitment," she said.
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