A TV Commercial That Created a National Hype

A 30-minute ferry ride from Songaksan takes you to Marado Island. The small, sweet-potato-shaped island is famous for two things: its southernmost location in Korea and its jajangmyeon.

View from Marado

Ferry from Songak to Marado

The small island with about fifty residents has whopping nine restaurants in business. All selling Korean-style black bean noodles as main menu. Marado jajangmyeon achieved national fame through a 90’s TV commercial. A telecommunication company’s iconic ad featured a popular comedian struggling to deliver jajangmyeon to Marado, the exclusive, southernmost island of Korea. A jajangmyeon place soon opened up in Marado and became a popular tourist destination. A few more opened up and as of 2017, there are nine jajangmyeon joints on an island small enough to walk around within an hour.

Nine restaurants, each aggressively promoting their “wonjo” jajangmyeon

So why so many black bean noodles restaurants? The very first joint apparently earned loads of cash, of course. Everyone else jumped on the bandwagon and opened up their own restaurants, hoping for a big buck.

It makes sense. Once you arrive in Marado, you usually have about 1.5 hours to spare. About an hour is more than enough for a stroll around the circumference of the island. Why not use the spare time to taste the famous Marado jajangmyeon?

Is Marado Jajangmyeon Worth Changing the Island’s Landscape?

Black bean noodles by the sea: a must-do for tourists visiting Marado

The problem is, there are too many restaurants and some of them lack quality. They simply rely on the fame of the Marado black bean noodles that had become a brand itself. Some allegedly use synthetic seasoning in their noodles. Others lie about product origin and promote that they only use local ingredients when they actually use imported.*

The competition among these restaurants is fierce. The signs are getting bigger and more flashy, dazzling the tourists as they pass by. Soliciting is common. Each of them emphasizing that their jajangmyeon is wonjo and taste the best.

The southernmost island of Korea is now home of mediocre jajangmyeon, created by media hype.

We tried the place that is apparently the very first noodles place on the island. The one that  could be responsible for all the hype. Except for the fact that the jajangmyeon has some squid and seaweed topping it was an ordinary jajangmyeon. Nothing too spectacular about its flavour.

Marado once was a quiet, peaceful island. It is farthest from Seoul and preserves exotic natural resources. Under the influence of media, the most exclusive island in Korea is now a manic tourist destination.

*Source from an article on 입질의추억.