Korea’s new ‘Ramyun Library’ mesmerizes international visitors

Date May 03, 2024

Korea’s new ‘Ramyun Library’ mesmerizes international visitors

The Ramyun Library within this CU convenience store has more than 200 kinds of ramyeon for sale (Photo by Kim Byoung-gu, Hongcomm.)

A new store in Seoul’s popular Hongdae district has become a hotspot for lovers of Korean instant noodles, also known as ramyeon. The CU Hongdae Sangsang Store’s Ramyun Library, which opened in December 2023, features a 100-compartment display rack filled with packaged ramyeon (also Romanized as ramyun). With more than 200 varieties of ramyeon on display, the Ramyun Library has become a hit with ramyeon lovers of all ages and nationalities. 

Aided by the success of K-pop and the spread of Korean culture around the world, ramyeon exports reached KRW 1 trillion (approximately USD 723.06 million) in 2023, the same year as the 60th anniversary of its creation. Interest in the ramyeon and their many variations has grown with their appearance in blockbuster hits such as the Oscar-winning “Parasite” and after Jungkook of BTS and other K-pop stars began sharing their original ramyeon recipes with fans.  

The Ramyun Library in Hongdae aims to showcase and celebrate the diversity of this quintessentially Korean ramyeon dish. The store makes it easy for customers to locate their preferred level of spiciness by using a simple five-tier scale–Mild, Medium, Hot, Very Hot and Hell–next to each price tag. In addition to old favorites like Shin Ramyun, the store offers international flavors, including Japanese instant ramen and Vietnamese pho, among others.

After making their selections, customers are provided with disposable paper bowls and wooden chopsticks, so they can immediately taste their choice. The onsite automated ramyeon cooker allows them to effortlessly prepare their noodles with just a few button presses. To further enhance the overall experience, the store features cup-shaped ramyeon bar tables that provide instructions for creating delicious ramyeon combinations. Within the store, customers can conveniently find a range of recommended ingredients such as cheese, eggs, dumplings and canned tuna. 

Since its opening last year, the Ramyun Library has received an average of 600 to 700 visitors daily and in December alone, and some 15,000 ramyeon packages were sold. International customers dominate the store’s consumer base, accounting for about 65 percent of the store’s total ramyeon sales and purchasing an average of 3.4 packets per visit, according to a store representative’s estimate. He said that the store’s reach among Koreans is far lower, in part, because international customers purchase additional ramyeon packets as souvenirs.

Visitors can even make their own ramyeon inside the convenience store. (Photo by Kim Byoung-gu, Hongcomm.)

Visitors can even make their own ramyeon inside the convenience store. (Photo by Kim Byoung-gu, Hongcomm.)

The success of the Hongdae store among non-Koreans led CU to open a new store in Jamsil on April 9, with a CU official explaining that it would target tourists waiting for Hangang River cruises. The new store features a range of other snacks and drinks alongside 120 types of ramyeon. Encouraged by data showing that more than 80 percent of consumers at the Hongdae store bought snacks in addition to ramyeon, the company is actively exploring how to expand similar types of specialty stores to boost profits. For example, CU recently opened a store selling ramyeon, snacks, desserts and other foods popular with international visitors at Mohegan INSPIRE, a large entertainment integrated resort in Incheon. The company also plans to open a “Snack & Ramen Library” at Incheon International Airport’s Terminal 2, which will offer 480 options from Korea and abroad. Going forward, the company plans to open similar stores focusing on specific foods, including beer and other snacks.

(Photo by Kim Byoung-gu, Hongcomm.)(Photo by Kim Byoung-gu, Hongcomm.)

(Photo by Kim Byoung-gu, Hongcomm.)

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