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PUBLISHED: Nov 10, 2016 3:13pm

Spurred by ghost of 1997 Asian financial crisis

kimchihun-hobak

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SEOUL, 10 Nov 2016: 

Almost 20 years after the 1997 Asian financial crisis led to gloom and despair in this part of the world, even as the surging greenback value and latest political landscape in the US threaten, a South Korean entrepreneur is well-prepared to ride out the much dreaded economic storm.

And he gets his determination from the time he gave up on one childhood passion to help his family financially – and discovering another life-long passion in the process, while many others drift through life without finding any.

“I had to give up playing ice hockey professionally,” said Kim Chin-Hun, 38, “because the trading business run by my parents collapsed amid the 1997 economic turmoil”.

He was forced to work at a restaurant and was surprised to find another calling there – cooking.

“I found myself asking then why so many countries had fantastic reputations for their culinary exports – Chinese, Italian, Thai and so on. Why couldn’t Korean food be equally famous?”

Setting out to address this shortfall, Hun has made it his life mission to offer Korean fine dining to the world – one restaurant at a time. And in 12 years, he is now the proud owner-operator of 20 stores within South Korea plus one in Las Vegas – Hobak Korean BBQ – via Hobak Family Inc.

“I ventured into the US as the first step towards setting up franchises abroad. I believe location plays a very important part in a successful restaurant and I do my own extensive research first before I even review potential partners.”

As to what drives his passion – which has seen him open outlets focusing on specific meats like beef, lamb and more under eight different branding – Hun says it all boils down to his favourite Korean dish kim chi.

“Not many people realise that there are many types of kim chi available, and each can well complement different types of well-seasoned meats, just like how wines enhance the dining experience.

“I’d like the world to embrace this fascination for kim chi – which is my name too – and I’d like to have played a part in making Korean food part of an globally recognised culinary wonder.”

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