In a remarkable achievement, South Korea's exports of the beloved Korean instant noodles, known as ramyeon, soared to an unprecedented high, hitting nearly $1 billion (1.31 trillion won) in 2023, as per government data and industry sources.
The Korea Customs Service reported a substantial annual increase, with ramyeon exports reaching $952 million last year, marking an impressive 24.4% surge from $765 million in 2022. Notably, the outbound shipments crossed $785 million in the first ten months of 2023 alone, surpassing the previous year's record.
This surge in ramyeon exports has been a consistent trend since 2015 when they totaled $219 million. The industry witnessed steady growth to $467 million in 2019, with a remarkable spike during the pandemic, reaching $640 million in 2020.
Industry insiders attribute the booming ramyeon exports to the global popularity of Korean content, including K-pop, dramas, and movies. The pandemic-induced rise in demand for convenient and affordable instant food also played a role, further fueled by social networking services that popularized ramyeon-eating challenges, turning them into viral sensations worldwide.
A recent survey jointly conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Korean Food Promotion Institute highlighted the global appeal of ramyeon. Out of approximately 9,000 respondents in 18 major cities worldwide, 11.1% identified ramyeon as their favorite Korean food, securing the second spot. Korean-style fried chicken took the lead as the most beloved K-food, with 16.5% of respondents favoring it.
South Korea's record-breaking ramyeon exports not only reflect the nation's culinary success but also showcase the immense influence of Korean culture on the global stage. The versatility and widespread popularity of ramyeon continue to make it a culinary delight enjoyed by people around the world.