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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Five Guys opens in South Korea and people go nuts

The new Five Guys location in Seoul served more than 2,000 customers on its first day of business earlier this week.  (Courtesy of Five Guys)
By Min Joo Kim Washington Post

SEOUL – The Five Guys burger chain opened its first joint in South Korea this week, and the reaction was, well, nuts.

A few South Koreans queued 12 hours before the restaurant opened. Some tried to sell their place in line. Neither the humidity nor the rainy-season showers could deter them.

Once inside, celebrities snapped selfies with the free peanuts.

Others listed burgers and fries on resale platforms: An effort to sell two cold cheeseburgers and large fries for $76 set Korean social media abuzz.

“It’s delicious,” declared Yoon Hyung-keun, who was officially the first customer at Five Guys’ first South Korean location, in the upmarket southern Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam, after waiting outside overnight.

The location opened Monday and served more than 2,000 customers on the first day, according to the company. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg was among those who cut the opening-day ribbon.

The chain, which opened in Arlington, Virginia, in 1986 and has since spread throughout the Washington, D.C., region – and now across the world, including Singapore, Hong Kong and China – has joined the likes of Shake Shack and In-N-Out Burger in South Korea.

They also caused minor sensations when opening.

For young South Koreans in particular, burgers and other American fast foods are a little bit exotic, a little bit decadent.

Definitely a special treat, rather than a regular occurrence, even when they come wrapped in paper.

Seeing an opportunity to make some cash, Seoul resident Karl Kim joined the queue at Five Guys at 5:45 a.m. Thursday, finding himself sixth in line.

That day, the first 20 customers were promised a Five Guys goody bag. Given the sensation that the burgers had caused, Kim thought he could sell both his access and the souvenir bag.

He listed his No. 6 spot in the queue online at $1,520, but in the end, Kim ate the burger himself, and the goody bag turned out to contain a Five Guys T-shirt, which Kim described as “insignificant.”

It’s not clear whether anyone actually bought the burgers and fries offered on Danggeun Market, South Korea’s largest resale app.

The company declined to say whether anyone purchased one of the to-go meals off its platform but said it regulates the listing of perishable items because of food safety concerns.

“Prepackaged food products can technically be sold online,” but sales can be restricted because of improper packaging or an expiration date violation, the company said in a statement.

Five Guys Korea sells a regular cheeseburger at 14,900 won ($11), which is similar to the price level at the chain’s U.S. locations.

Critics called the burger overpriced for the South Korean market.

“It’s all hype,” said Il Ryu, a South Korean office worker who waited 40 minutes in line to try Five Guys on Tuesday.

“I found the taste rather average and do not want to pay over 10,000 won for this burger,” said Ryu, who calls himself a burger aficionado.

“I honestly could not understand why anyone would pay double the price on a black market.”