The owner of the restaurant is Donggukian, Jun Joo sung, who graduated from the department of physical education. He received an award from the Korea CEO management in 2010 and was awarded first prize for being a small business from the association of Korean advanced ideas. His company, ‘Myungdong Kalguksu and shabu shabu’ is a famous food company in the food service industry world. It seems that Jun Joo sung has the Midas touch as everything he touches turns out successful. Eight overseas franchisees ? five stores in China, one store in Vietnam and one store in Canada - are operating with great success. This year, the company of Myungdong Kalguksu and shabu shabu was also established in India. Therefore, the Post met with Jun Joo-sung to learn more about his life.
Part1. CEO, Jun Joo sung
Q. You have run the Myungdong Kalguksu and shabu shabu company for five years and have opened a lot of other restaurants all over the world. Thanks to your efforts, Kalguksu is being viewed as a well-being food and cosmopolitan. Tell us how you established this company.
A. I changed the way people think about Kalguksu. Also, I was influenced by Myungdong because it is located near Dongguk University. First, the company of Myungdong Kalguksu and shabu shabu is different from the original Myungdong Kalguksu. I established the first of these restaurants not only in Korea but also in Shanghai, China. My brand is about modernizing tradition.
At my age, starting a business in the food industry was hard to understand for a lot of ordinary people. Most students who graduate from university would rather get a job at a major company. Before I started in the food service industry, I got a job with a pharmaceutical company in the sales department. However, I wanted to earn more money. My goal did not really match up well with my graduating from the physical education department. Still, I started to build my enterprise, and began to work with food, at the age of 50. I underwent many hardships, trials and tribulations. Some people think that at the age of 50 we should not start something new. However, my feelings were different and I believed it was never too late to go after something you wanted. It all depends upon the person and his drive. This means the way to success can be varied. In my case, turning basic kalguksu into a fancy food was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. I created a sales strategy directed towards young people. For example, customers could drink wine in the restaurant. Originally, where people eat kalguksu, it is a shabby place; however our restaurant would be a proper place to go on dates. My business, following these basic concepts spread all over the world.
Q. What did you do to overcome your difficulties? Also, tell us the time when you felt genuinely happy.
A. When I quit my first job to start my own business was the most difficult time. I could not earn money for three years. My family had difficulties economically and psychologically. It was the hardest period. To overcome this crisis, I tried to think positively. I felt really happy especially when I started work on my kalguksu business in 2002. Of course, now I am always happy. I am motivated to enjoy my work and wish to have as many positive experiences as I can. A really rewarding moment is when I can give back to the community like when I can give jobs to retired people who have lost hope.
These days, information technology continues to grow fast in Korea. Older people feel like they are falling behind and cannot catch up. My jobs can give them peace in these modern times and I am happy to work with my employees. I hope I can consistently give more chances to older people through expanding my business.
Q. Could you tell us more about your motivations to globalize fancy kalguksu all over the world?
How were you able to attract more foreign customers to Myungdong Kalguksu?
A. I started the globalization of Myungdong Kalguksu after the suggestion from one of my Chinese acquaintances. This person helped me to learn various things about Chinese culture, and the food service industry there among other things. I realized that China has enormous potential for development because it has a less advanced service industry. That’s why I opened a franchise store in Shanghai, China. I remember seeing one person, waiting to eat kalguksu and her face looked so happy. Even some people were getting misty-eyed just eating Kim-chi. Perhaps, it was the spicy flavor, or maybe we have some really good foods to offer the world.
Business abroad is not a dream anymore but a reality. When you start to work abroad, you just have to find a way to manage anyway you can. To encourage success, I introduced a low-priced shabu shabu in the foreign restaurants in 2002 and tried to suit their taste to kalguksu. It was well received overseas. Once those restaurants took off, the whole world became my domain.
Part2. Donggukian, Jun Joo sung
Q. Please tell us something about your experiences at Dongguk University.
A. After I entered the department of physical education, I just enjoyed my school life and exercising. I didn’t have a specific goal in mind, and I did not get good grades. Looking back on it now, I was kind of lazy but always tried to think positively. Studying wasn’t everything. Students should try to experience various fields. I was a member of a club, and played the guitar and sang songs. If I did any actual studying, I can’t remember. The most interesting experience at university life was holding a concert with other students. When I was a freshman, my friends and I held a concert. We sold a thousand tickets. I was worried about selling tickets at first, but the concert tickets sold out. The guests were fabulous and the concert was great, too. It was a great and exciting experience.
Q. What qualities do you think a good CEO (chief executive officer) has to have?
A. The first thing is a positive mind. You always have to be able to look on the bright side of things. Always remember that your dreams will come true. The second thing is reading a lot of books and those aren’t necessarily the ones you read in school. I found my dream from the book, ‘Your best life now’ by Joel Osteen. By having indirect experiences through reading many books, you can partake in experiences as if they are your own. I hope that young people will challenge to make their mark in the food service industry. If you know what customers want then you can be successful. In many fields, there is competitiveness but if you find a new style your efforts will be rewarded.
Q. Do you have any advice for Dongguk University students to help them beat the competition?
A. Stay humble and focused. Don’t get too high, but keep working hard. Have confidence in yourself. Travel, read books and do volunteer activities. These experiences can help you realize your own place in the world.
Jun Joo sung’s challenges are not over. His dreams are large and he hopes to spread his restaurants all over the world. Can he ever have too much success? It appears he can’t. “I trust my dream will come true.” Though he is 54 years old, he feels young because his dreams keep him that way. “Having a dream is the same as having hope. There is always working to be done.” He will approach the gates of success with a humble mind and take it step by step.
We can all expect to eat Korean food at Myungdong Kalguksu and shabu shabu, anywhere and anytime.
Bang Hye-jung firstname.lastname@example.org
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