Starbucks: The Korean Status Symbol


Love it or hate it

If it comes to Starbucks coffee there seems to be no golden mean – either you love it or you prefer to get your coffee somewhere else. Nevertheless, Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with more than 19,900 stores in 60 countries. Especially, South Koreans seem to love Starbucks. The South Korean capital Seoul has 284 locations – seven more than in New York City.



This is actually a surprising amount for a country, which national drink is not coffee but Soju. However, a recent study has shown that Koreans seem to detach from their traditional drinking and eating habits.

More coffee than Kimchi

According to the International Business Times, Koreans consume even more coffee than Kimchi, which is not only their national dish but an inherent part of the Korean diet since the 16th century. On average Koreans drink coffee 12,2 times per week, while Kimchi, on the other hand, is consumed only 11,9 times per week.

The first Starbucks in Korea opened in 1999 on a women’s only university campus and soon the Starbucks coffee became a status symbol. In Seoul, a simple Americano cost €3,30, while in Germany only €2,40 and in the United States only €1,95.

“Bean Paste Girls”

It seems as if the South Korean love Starbucks for what it represents rather than for the taste. Holding a Starbucks paper cup almost became as important as a status symbol as an expensive handbag. Out of this phenomenon, the term doenjang or “Bean Paste Girl” originated. The term refers to young women who prefer the luxury of getting a Starbucks coffee instead of food.


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