Another Hilarious Bibimbap Ad


CORRECTIONS AND UPDATES: The Bibimbap Backpackers contacted us and informed us that they have been working separately from Seo Kyung Duk since 2012. Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the post, they also want to verify that they get no government support. They regret the ad they posted and will try harder to contemplate their promotions before posting.

From the Bibimbap Backpackers, who are a subsidiary of Seo Kyung Duk’s ForTheNextGeneration–you know, the guy behind the cheesy New York Times ads.

There is SOOOO much that is wrong with this ad, which they briefly posted on their Facebook page.

For one thing–THAT IS NOT A BIG MAC!

That’s the first fib they told on this. The other one–a Big Mac is 550 kcal, not 1055!

When I mentioned this on their Facebook page, they said that they were talking about a Big Mac set. To people not familiar with how Korean fast food restaurants run, a “set” means a combo meal. Fries and drink. Again, not very forthcoming in the truth department.

But really, we’ve gone over this before. Don’t try to make traditional Korean food look healthy by comparing it to the worst of American junk food. That’s so dumb! Was this the school project of an 8-year-old?

I myself love bibimbap, which is why this ad infuriates me. It is trying to make bibimbap into something it’s not. It has its health benefits from a variety of high vitamin ingredients. But it’s hardly the food for calorie counters. As an exercise, I posted on their Facebook page all these other traditional foods from other countries, including America, which have less calories than bibimbap. There are quite a bit. Bibimbap is closer in calories to a Philly Cheesesteak than it is to a Cobb Salad.

This is another area that they just stubbornly can’t wrap their minds around. How do they think they can successfully promote Korean food by insulting other foods?

Yes, I said they were comparing it to junk food, but I have run into this time and time again that Koreans assume Americans only eat hamburgers and pizza all the time. One young man seriously asked me how many hamburgers Americans eat per day. It’s similar to that study that was posted (and taken down) on the Korean Food Foundation website that compared sperm counts of people eating traditional Korean food with people who ate burgers and fried pork cutlets. There’s this frog-in-the-well stereotype (I’m not saying racist stereotype) that Americans are fat because all American food is unhealthy. When in fact it’s because Americans are eating cheap junk foods and not exercising much. They have access to plenty of healthy traditional American cuisine, but they just choose not to eat it. Telling someone that bibimbap has less calories than a Big Mac ain’t gonna change the mind of someone who is craving a Big Mac.

The whole “Korean food is healthy” angle is such a dangerous and unproductive approach. For one thing, it’s not like there aren’t healthy options available to westerners, who are waiting for some Hansik white knight to rescue them. But also, Korean food is just as healthy and unhealthy as other traditional cuisines. It does use less oil and animal fats. Koreans are generally thinner than their western counterparts. But they also have the highest stomach cancer rate in the world.

After I posted a little of what I wrote up here, they took down their post. A pity. It was such a great model of how not to promote bibimbap.


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6 thoughts on “Another Hilarious Bibimbap Ad”

  1. I’m reasonable familiar with the calorie counts in a Big Mac as I kind of use it as a metric. And when I looked at that I was like that’s way inaccurate. If they can’t get the posted calories of a Big Mac right and miss it by a factor of two, how do I know they have any clue how many calories are bibimbap?

    And comparing a bowl of bibimbap to a Big Mac meal is a false comparison. Do you eat bibimbap with a glass of water? Or do you wash it down with a bottle of soju? Do you eat just the bibimbap or do you scarf down a lot of ban chan?

    Much the same way the alt med industry has traded on the false dichotomy that natural supplements are not made by big pharm means our drugs are safe and we’re not lying to you, it would seem Korean food promoters trade on the idea “it’s not American fast food therefore it’s low in calories and necessarily healthy.”

    • There are certainly healthy options here in the States (though I wouldn’t call cobb “salad” a healthy meal), but save for the minority of people who actually care about their body… no one’s really eating them. I think bibimbap has a potential to be a great bridge for the unhealthy eaters to start eating more vegetables (hell, ANY vegetables) and eating well. At the end of the day, it’s not that hard to make it at home, it can be very appealing to the American palate (especially the Dolsot variant with its sizzling, piping hot characteristics… and a fried egg on top!), and much healthier than most options here that you can get for a similar price range.

      “They have access to plenty of healthy traditional American cuisine”

      I think there’s an oxymoron in that sentence. 😀

  2. i don’t see what is so wrong with this, when mcdonald’s ad campaigns are so ubiquitous all around asia, targeting kids. when korean infants recognize the bigmacs and prefer that over traditional foods… what is your rant really about?

    • It’s about a critical approach towards the way much of Korea markets its food based on subtle misguided nationalistic tendencies that get in the way of objectivity. Coming from a native Korean born and raised in Korea for 25 years mind you believe I’m a ‘foreigner’ who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  3. Really interesting post:) I enjoyed reading it and see that you have a point there. I do feel it’s a bit biased and could convey wrong ideas..
    Your posts are always interesting and fun to read. Keep up the good work 😀


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