Cultural exchange and the influence of Korean drama and K-pop are driving the surging popularity of Korean cuisine in Qatar, according to South Korean businessman Jewan Park. Park, who has been active in Qatar’s food industry for years, told Gulf Times that back then, people were skeptical when he mentioned that Qatar could support more than 50 Korean restaurants.

“Today, there are around 20 Korean restaurants, with new ones opening every year,” he said as he shared insights into the rapid growth and future potential of Korean cuisine in Qatar and the region. Park credits this rise to several factors, including the increasing number of Qataris visiting Korea and the global reach of Korean pop culture.

“A decade ago, it was rare to meet locals who had visited Korea. Now, almost half of the people I speak to have been there. This cultural exchange, fueled by Netflix, YouTube, and social media, has expanded their culinary horizons beyond just kimchi and Tteokbokki. They are exploring a variety of Korean dishes and even sharing cooking tips with me,” he said.

According to Park, the authenticity of Korean food in Qatar remains high, noting that in the country, almost all Korean restaurants are owned by Korean nationals, except one in a hotel. This, he pointed out, ensures that the quality and authenticity of the food remain intact. Some restaurants are even blending Korean and local flavours, creating unique fusion dishes, he added.

“Social media acts as free daily advertising for Korean food,” Park noted. “K-Pop live performances and Korean cultural events are becoming more common in Qatar, further boosting tourism and interest in Korean culture.”

He highlighted the growing investment and interest from Korean businesses in Qatar, noting that Korean government officials see significant potential in Qatar as a destination for investment. He said investment from Korea is increasing, likely leading to more establishments and stronger bilateral relations.