Nowadays, university students tend to grab a meal from the nearest convenience store because the price is cheap and they can eat the meal quickly. SMT reporter, Hyun A, also frequents convenience stores for her lunch meal during the semester. Convenient stores now offer students diverse fast meals, ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 won. Also, the meals are often very diverse so there are many options to choose from, and the best thing is they cost very little. Therefore, she decided to visit a convenience store to browse the various meals available to customers and attempted to purchases items that would, when eaten together, form a meal, using only the standard minimum wage students with part-time jobs receive for an hour’s worth of work.
Why Has Convenience Store Meals Become So Popular?
As of 2016, minimum wage in Korea is 6,030 won per hour. At first glance, 6,000 won may seem like a nice sum, but compared to the price index of Korea, 6,030 won is very small for workers and students. These days, ordering a simple meal like kimchi stew or bibimbap at a restaurant is on average about 6,000 won. A student who works only an hour a day can only afford one meal. The student should forgo any type of dessert or beverage, so students, including this SMT reporter, tend to buy their meals from convenience stores. The meals are fulfilling and even with the purchase of a dessert, they still come to less than 6,000 won. Some worry about the quality of convenience store meals, but students, so far, have expressed great satisfaction with the meals and pricing. Dosirak or packed meal in English can easily be purchased at convenience stores at affordable prices as well. In fact, quick Facebook or Instagram searches will show you how to eat deliciously at a convenience store. Thus, this SMT reporter decided to visit a convenience store with only 6,030 won to create a delicious meal with an added dessert.
A Lot of Choice
There are plenty of convenience stores like CU, 7-Eleven, and GS25, but this reporter chose to visit GS25 since it was the nearest store to her house. Despite the small size of the GS25 store, there was an abundance of meals to choose from. Fast food ranged from cup noodles to snacks and there were also plenty of beverages and various types of icecream, all at very reasonable prices. Coffee ranged in price from about 1,000 won to 1,500 won, and with the prices at cafés roughly 3,500 won to 4,500 won she delighted in the money she would save. Most products, including cup noodles and snacks cost only about 1,500 won so she was free to choose from a huge variety of items. Excitedly, the reporter looked about the store. She noticed there were also lots of other young university-aged students purchasing meals in the convenience store. Like her, they spent some time deciding what to buy since every food item looked delicious. After lengthy consideration, she decided to buy buldakbokkeum noodles (hot and spicy chicken stir-fried noodles) because she was a spicy-food lover.
She also bought tteokbboki (spicy stir-fried rice cake) to compliment her noodles. She was also able to pick up a mozzarella cheese stick, a triangle kimbap, and a hazelnut-flavoured coffee to drink. The mozzarella cheese stick cost only cost 800 won so it didn’t have much of an effect on the total cost. She cooked the noodles and rice cake in the microwave at the convenience store, and once they were warmed, she combined them to make the noodles spicier and to add more flavor to the rice cake. Once she’d eaten her dish, she then moved on to the triangle kimbap and mozzarella cheese stick. She combined them to make a sort of bibimbap. The rice, cheese, and sauce combined to make the perfect taste balance. She was truly enjoying her meal, though she was alone. After finishing the meal, she felt full and satisfied. She then proceed to clean up her area and started to drink the coffee she’d also bought. She poured the packaged drink into a cup of ice and took it with her as she left for home.
The Walk Home on a Full Belly
Satisfied fully, she reached home only to realize that she’d only spent 5,300 won on all the food she’d eaten. She still had 730 won. She awed at how much food she could consume on less than 6,030 won, the minimum wage in Korea. If she had eaten at a restaurant, with only the 6,030 won she’d brought to the convenience store, she wouldn’t have been able to buy so much or so many kinds of food. Thus, she was cheery and came home with a full and satisfied belly. On the downside, however, the convenience store meal didn’t have the taste of love from mom’s touch. Also, the reporter realized that the hourly minimum wage in Korea surely needs increasing so that students will be able to enjoy a meal and dessert not just from a convenience store but also from a sit-down restaurant.