Kimchi Fries? McDonald’s Rides the Korean Wave with new Offerings in Singapore

While China may be going through a bit of anti-Korean zeal lately, elsewhere in Asia the love affair with Korea and its high-energy style is going strong. Even McDonald’s, the quintessential American brand, is quick to tap into Korea’s star power with a food pitch hinting at K-dramas and K-pop idols.

Earlier in March, McDonald’s rolled out two Korean-style burgers and an almost inevitable pairing of kimchi and fries. Yes – kimchi and fries.

The ad campaign features a 30-second spot parodying Korean romantic dramas with the Seoul Spicy Burger being the love interest or “Oppa”. For K-Drama fans the love triangle trope will be immediately familiar.


“The campaign taps into the Korean craze by combining two particular fan favourites – K-Drama and Korean flavours,” said Chris Chiu, Chief Creative Officer at DDB Group Singapore.

“From the casting to the cinematography and music, our collaboration with McDonald’s was rooted in a shared determination to ensure the authenticity of the genre and final product. We think that shows in the work.”

The Food

The “Seoul Spicy Chicken Burger” and “Seoul Spicy Beef” Burger come packing double-barreled spiciness, playing up Korean food’s reputation for heat. Both are glazed with what is called simply a “spicy Korean sauce” made from a blend of soybean paste, sesame paste, chili peppers, garlic and soy sauce. The spicy sauce is balanced by creamy veggie slaw, romaine lettuce and a black pepper and white sesame bun.


Singapore-based food bloggers liken the sauce to McDonald’s Bulgogi Burger sauce in Korea with an added dose of fire, and food bloggers in Singapore know a thing or two about spice.

A more straightforward spin are the Kimchi Shaker Fries, a pairing of kimchi-flavored powder shaken over fresh, hot fries. The sour, garlicky tang of kimchi plays well off the salty fries.

“We’re always looking to excite our customers with the food we serve, and the experiences we offer,” said Mabelline Toh, Marketing Consultant at McDonald’s Singapore. “Through a variety of touch points, we’ve brought the K-wave to life for our customers in Singapore to have fun with,” she added.

Here is a 2001 ad from Korea for the Kimchi-Burger –a concept that wasn’t long for this world. The burger might not have been that great, but we love the ad. (Hat tip to Johnny Ioannidis on the find.)


Mike Sizemore

Mike Sizemore

Mike is a Daegu, South Korea-based contributor who writes on culture and life in Asia.

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