Eatery owner cancels franchise plan after caught copying recipes


By Kang Hyun-kyung

A Seoul-based restaurant owner, who copied rice porridge recipes developed by a Pohang-based chef and tried to use them to start a franchise business, publicly apologized for his actions.

In a statement released on Monday, the owner of Seoul-based restaurant Dubjuk Dubjuk said he “plagiarized” the rice porridge, called “dubjuk,” and promoted it using deceptive marketing phrases while pushing for a franchise business, which could have misled customers to believe that his and the Pohang-based eateries are related.

“I am deeply sorry for hurting (the Pohang-based chef) who developed the recipes through her months-long endeavor to offer new recipes for her customers,” it reads.

“I went all the way down to Pohang on Oct. 11 to apologize to the chef in person. But I couldn’t meet her because she didn’t want to see me. So I chose to release a statement to deliver my regret to her.”

The Dubjuk Dubjuk owner said he regretted what he had done and vowed to cancel his plan to start a rice porridge franchise business, noting what he did was unethical and that such a thing won’t happen again.

The reaction came days after the Pohang-based chef, who owns a small backstreet eatery in the southern coastal city, criticized the Seoul-based restaurant for stealing her self-developed recipe.

On Instagram, the chef wrote she hadn’t opened any chain restaurants in Seoul or any other cities.

“My dubjuk restaurant was featured in Baek Jong-won’s Alley Restaurant earlier. I would like to make it clear that our restaurant has nothing to do with the restaurants in question in the southern Seoul area or other districts,” she wrote. “My months-long struggles and efforts to develop the recipes… Mr. Baek’s praise of my food… All of it is to go in vain.”

Her Instagram post went viral, causing some loyal fans of the reality show to launch a consumer boycott of the Gangnam-based restaurant which tried to profit from the copied recipes.

Some shared the Pohang-based chef’s post on their social media to spread the word and put pressure on the Seoul-based restaurant owner, and some gave negative comments on the Seoul-based restaurant to discourage people from visiting it.

Under the current law, recipes are not protected by copyright. Thus, the Seoul-based restaurant owner is unlikely to face punishment.

But the Seoul-based eatery owner felt pressure from the consumer-driven initiative, so he gave in and dropped his plan to open a franchise business with the copied recipes.

The Pohang-based chef appeared on SBS’s Wednesday night show “Baek Jong-won’s Alley Restaurant” in July. The host, star chef Baek, praised the eatery owner for creating the enjoyable rice soup varieties with stir-fried vegetables and seafood or beef.

Baek gave a thumbs-up to the chef, saying the rice soup is flawless and so perfect that he had no other comments on the food.

“Alley Restaurant” is a hit reality show which has aired on SBS since 2018. Star chef and franchise business owner Baek visits restaurants in each episode and gives comments to the backstreet eateries’ owners on food served regarding how they could upgrade their recipes to attract more customers.

Baek sometimes pays unannounced visits to some of the restaurants he previously visited and checks if they followed his advice.

Restaurants that receive positive reviews enjoy an increase of customers as Baek’s comments serve as a sort of celebrity endorsement.

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