Food prices escalating after minimum wage hike in South Korea

Koreans walk down a popular food and entertainment street in downtown Seoul. File photo by UPI/Stephen Shaver

SEOUL, March 4 (UPI) — The cost of food and basic necessities in South Korea is continuing to rise, after the government decided to raise the minimum wage in January by the largest annual increase in 17 years.

Asia Today reported Sunday that scores of food and beverage establishments have raised prices due to higher costs for labor and ingredients.

A franchise specializing in grilled pork and a Chinese restaurant chain raised prices by at least a dollar. A bowl of soybean paste noodles costing around $4 is now priced at $5.

Fast food restaurants, including McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Lotteria, all adjusted their prices between 1 percent and 8 percent after the minimum wage hike, as did major bakeries and coffee shops.

Prices of groceries and basic necessities are also on the rise, particularly in convenience stores that employ part-time workers on minimum wage.

Rice balls, sandwiches and ready meals have recently become up to 10 percent more expensive, as have rice, fizzy drinks, and canned and frozen foods.

One convenience store chain even raised prices for its own brand products, including wooden chopsticks, paper cups and hair ties.

“We decided to raise our prices following the continuous requests of our small-and-medium enterprise partners,” GS retail told Yonhap.

Prices will likely continue to rise until next year across a broad spectrum of industries — not just the food and retail sectors, according to market observers.


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