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South Korea Honbap Trend: Everything You Have To Know About Eating Alone in Korea

by Jessica Rapir / Feb 20, 2018 03:18 AM EST
Eating alone in South Korea has become a trend and it is known as the "honbap" or eating alone habit. Photo by: 2hearts1seoul / YouTube Screeshot

Eating alone in South Korea has become a trend not only to those who are alone in life but also to those who have someone to dine with. This trend is known as the "honbap" or eating alone habit.

According to Statistics Korea, more people are now embracing the honbap habit and conquering their fear of dining alone. Apparently, this is evident in the increase in the consumption of instant rice and single-serve lunches such as onigiri-style samgak (triangle) gimbap in the country. Dining alone is considered somewhat taboo in South Korean society until recently.

Why is "Honbap" Unacceptable Before?

In Korean culture, eating is a social activity. It is common to eat in a group of two or more than to eat alone. Dining alone is considered taboo because of the fear to be ostracized. But the honbap trend is breaking this tradition and people starting to adapt to the fast-paced lifestyle of the new generation.

"What they fear is losing their chaemyon (reputation) if people think of them as a wangda (loner), and that's a big taboo," Chang May Choon wrote in Singapore's Straits Times

What Changed?

According to Maiel Business Newspaper, the change was brought by the increasing number of one-person household coupled with the emerging culture that emphasizes on more "me time." And because of the increasing interest in eating without a company, many restaurants are adapting too. The increasing number of "eating alone" diners has been a trend that is so widespread that even high-end restaurants are adding tables for one.

Restaurants in Korea Where You Can Eat Alone

The "high-class solo dining" is also becoming a trend that made several fine dining restaurants in the country decided to change their spaces to accommodate solo diners who are looking for fine and luxurious dining. The Grand Hyatt Seoul Hotel restaurants, for instance, the Teppanyaki restaurant Tepan, sushi bar Kauri, 322 Sowolro, and Tenkai now have additional bar seats for solo diners.

"If the table seats are filled in the past, the customer orientation is changing so the bar seats become crowded nowadays," Maiel Business Newspaper quoted an official at the Grand Hyatt Seoul Hotel as saying.

Some family restaurants are also changing their dining spaces to single person dining places. They now have small cubicles with just one seat. Moreover, there is also a mobile phone app, Honbabin's Dinner, that recommends restaurants where you can dine alone in South Korea. 

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