A Starbucks Americano Costs Twice As Much In Korea

Article from YTN:

These days, coffee is even more expensive than food!

It is just one of the small luxuries of everyday life.

Yet, in Korea, a cup of coffee is two times as much as one in New York City. Shouldn’t that make you think twice?

The Korea Center for Economic Studies, KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency), and Dong-a Ilbo compared prices of a Starbucks americano according to country.

As of August 18th, [the price of an americano in] Korea was $4.85 USD, the 6th priciest in the 20-country OECD.

Starbucks has its origins in the United States. In typically expensive New York City, how much would it be?

It is $2.45 USD, around half the price of the same in Korea.

Countries with higher prices than Korea included Poland, Greece, and other Eastern European countries suffering from economic crises.

Among advanced nations such as Japan, Germany, and England had lower prices than Korea despite being nations where goods are typically expensive.

The largest issue here is that the price of a Starbucks coffee is the average price compared to other domestic coffee shops.

The top half of the graphic shows that while Starbucks in Korea (labeled in brown) is among the most expensive worldwide, the bottom half shows that domestically Starbucks is not the most expensive coffee brand.

The top half of the graphic shows that while Starbucks in Korea (labeled in brown) is among the most expensive worldwide, the bottom half shows that domestically Starbucks is not the most expensive coffee brand.

There could be a good reason for price hikes at Starbucks.

One analysis states that the majority of domestic coffee shops are located in high-rent commercial districts which translates to higher prices.

However, we should also consider the possibility that royalties are excessive and [the coffee shops] could be taking advantage of the way Korean consumers think about luxury goods.

Comments from Naver:


Korea, land of pushovers.


Wow are we really such pushovers.


Has everyone gone crazy? kekeke


I’d love it if prices were lowered a little.


It’s an issue. Cookies are like this, and coffee too. Even though they’re expensive, we keep buying and consuming them. We are also the problem . When it’s expensive, if its consumption goes down, only if a lot of people are not buying coffee and cookies can the prices go down. Even when prices go up people keep buying them so of course the price can’t go down.


Young people so proudly drink their Starbucks with their significant others, and their fathers struggle drinking coffee from a vending machine.


To be honest, what is the reason for buying such expensive coffee? All the coffees taste the same -it’s just pretentious showing off. kekeke Let’s live within our means. keke Independent coffee shops all have take-out and there are so many that sell an americano for 1,500 won. Getting coffee there is fine. For what reason are you spending so much money keke


I have no intention to talk down coffee culture. But don’t blame society for not having any money if you’re drinking a 5,000 won coffee every day. You are just one of the people who is sustaining such an unreasonable social structure.


Starbucks isn’t the only one that’s expensive – Coffee Bean, Paul Basset, Holly’s, Cafe Bene, all of them have almost the same prices. It’s unusual why only Starbucks is mentioned for raising prices. All coffee in Korea should be around 2,000 won.


It’s given that in the US [the price is] like that, so let’s explain why our coffee is more expensive than Japan. A grande americano at Narita airport is only 3,000 won. What is so different? It’s really shocking, are we just being seen as easy prey?


Even in London where it’s famous for being so expensive it kills you, it’s still cheaper than Korea.


The answer lies in knowing why Italy has no Starbucks.


Recently I looked at my card purchases and was shocked. Coffee is really a back-breaker.


If we all stop buying it then the prices will lower kekeke but like that’s gonna happen.


Naive Koreans. Just coffee? Cars, cosmetics, coffee, cell phones. All these companies see Korea as a market to exploit!! Korean companies are worse. Their exports are cheaper with better quality!! Korean companies do this so no wonder foreign companies also think we’re easy prey. Korea, gullible to high-end marketing.


Samsung electronics employee: The phone is expensive because there is DMB VAT [Digital Media Broadcasting Value Added Tax], and the domestic market is smaller than in other countries. Mass-production blah blah blah so it’s 200,000 won more expensive… shut up just buy it … Starbucks is just the same. Republic of Korea, Republic of Pushovers.


It’s because of those kimchi bitches who drink it only if it’s expensive, ke.


Korea is a nation of pushovers and suckers. So much money spent really frivolously So fucking annoyed.


Even so they are doing well.


Why is Starbucks always talked about like it is the norm. Domestic brands like Angel-In-Us and Cafe Bene are more expensive, and don’t taste good either.

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  • Yaminah Jamison

    Ironically, I go out my way to buy instant coffee from Asian markets because it’s 3-in-1! Cheaper too. If I don’t have that, me and everyone else in my area go to Wawa (a Jersey/Philly place better than 7-11) Starbucks sucks and overpriced for their bitter coffee.

    • Brett

      Wawa rocks my socks!

      • BSDetector

        I haven’t been in a WaWa in about 11 years.. man I miss the meatball sandwiches and soft pretzels at the counter.

      • Yaminah Jamison

        …but they stopped making the double chocolate donut with chocolate crunchies on top. So….. they went down a bit for me *sighs* Dunkin Donuts wants a frickin $1 USD for a donut! Ridiculous!

  • vincent_t

    USD5 in Korea? Well, about the same in China, except the average income in China is just a fraction of S.Korea, but the Starbuck here is still always crowded.

  • RegisterToPost

    Koreans show astonishing price insensitivity when it comes to just about anything remotely desirable. Combine that with protectionist policies, the useless Korean middleman required by Korean law for foreign businesses, and it’s a wonder the price is only twice as expensive.

  • Jahar

    Canada is the lowest on there?

  • cloud9

    $5 for boiling water and 1 or 2 shots of espresso :o

  • Oliver

    Let’s get this off first: “Americano” is not coffee. It’s what dishwater tastes like in a European coffee shop. But probably better for your health.

    Independent coffee shops near universities sell better coffee for 1-2,000 won. But no free Internet, smoking rooms or sitting around 5 hours with free WiFi.

    Much worse is the fattening of local thighs because of the junk snacks offered in franchised coffee joints. Of course, 6,000 for cinnamon toast with whipped cream and 9,000 for a 7,500 kcal bingsu.

    The core problem is that Koreans are still uneducated, undiscerning consumers. For out-of-culture products, more expensive is “more better.” Companies take brutal advantage of that and then you’ll get 5,000 won coffee, 5,000 won cookies, 980,000 won phones etc. Market protection forces overseas competitors to set equal prices for goods that cost half outside of Korea (Google Nexus 7), or for a laugh compare prices of baby formula here with those on Amazon. But little protest because the times of having only Korean products are less than a generation past.

    Korea only got iPhone when Samsung was ready to offer its Galaxy-S clone. And then it got last year’s model to make Samsung look more advanced.

    This goes back to the days when 90% of an employee’s salary would go back to the employer through purchases of their products and services.

    Also, 90% of coffee shop revenue seems to come from young women, perhaps that’s why watered down, sweetened dishwater is more popular here than a real double espresso.

  • 금정산

    Going to a cafe to drink coffee is only partially about the coffee. People pay for the service and more importantly, an indoor place to rest. The Korean summer is long and humid, and winter is long and freezing. A very high population density and overworked population mean the leases near convenient locations (subway stations, shopping areas) are very expensive. This is the main reason why the prices comparatively higher in Korea.

    The article failed to mention this detail. It only briefly mentioned “the high-rent of commercial districts”. Why didn’t it mention the prices of the homegrown chains like Angel-in-us |whatever that means| and Caffe Bene, which one commentator says are more expensive?

    It’s to make people feel cheated and draw their attention. I really do wish the news was about actual news and current affairs were kept separate. You disappoint me, YTN.

    • commander

      Although your argument is persuasive overall, but a few things need to be considered.

      Cities compared in the survey have big rents for stores in busy and bustling areas as well, meaning Seoul in South Korea is not alone in enormous rents for coffee shops.

      In fact, all business conditions here is shared by compared cities.

      Starbucks is arguably the first coffee brand here to unveil high priced coffee for locals here , so it is natural that the foreign coffee chain is thrown into spotlight when we talk about rising coffee prices in South Korea.

      Though there are other local coffee chains that charge coffee buyers higher than Starbucks, the criticism of claimed prejudices against foreign coffee brands in the article should not overshadow the core of the question: Coffee prices are too high for a growing number of people who think of sipping a cup of coffee as one of daily necessities.

  • Chucky3176

    If Starbucks or any other consumer goods company for that matter, raised and doubled their prices tomorrow, I am quite sure their sales will double also. There’s an old Korean idiom, the more expensive the price, the better quality of the product.
    Korean consumers really don’t care about price to quality ratio. They care more about brands. And the general rule is, the more expensive it is, the higher the branding. And if they are Western European products, with Starbucks an exception, the more advantage those brands will be afforded, therefore they can jack up their prices all they want, and still never see any hurt in sales volume. Instead, they’re strengthening their branding.

    • Jahar

      China is like that too

    • drinkitbitch

      u act like all the white girls in America with Starbucks in their hands care about the price to quality ratio or something. Luxury sells everywhere and the “more expensive= better” is prevalent everywhere. that’s why a shit ugly design like Louie Vuitton actually manages to sell all over the world

      • MikeinGyeonggi

        All the “white girls in America” are only paying $2 for a coffee. Starbucks is not luxury in America – it’s just coffee.

        • drinkitbitch

          No they aren’t they are paying 5+ for the sugary and cute little frappe drinks that they instagram silly u obviously aren’t a white girl in America

  • Sid Driver

    BTW, prices just went up a couple hundred won a month or two ago…

  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    Twice as expensive.

    Still tastes like crap.

    • bumfromkorea

      I’m very partial to a cup of Toddy from a local coffee shop. It’s like tasting what coffee smells like, and it’s awesome.

  • BSDetector

    1 20oz Café Mocha on-base is $4.75, it’s filled at least 90% of the way and served usually at the correct temperature.
    1 10oz Café Mocha off-base is around 5000W, it’s filled 50% of the way and scolding hot.

    We all know why things are more expensive in Korea, it’s because that’s why. Why they only fill it half way and want to give me 3rd degree burns is beyond me.

  • drinkitbitch

    weird I’m from a eastern european country and coffee her is literally 1-3 USD at most. Even for lattes and espresso drinks in the downtown area. but we are a kinda coffee obsessed country ppl drink coffee 3 times a day minimum so idk

  • vonskippy

    It is what it is. The prices are carefully monitored, and adjusted to maximize PROFITS, not sales. So pretty much all the market will pay, then just a bit more.

  • Truck Furniture Maker

    Everything is generally overpriced in Korea. Guess what happens when you have protectionist policies/protests against foreign goods while at the same time importing 50% of your food products (due largely to a lack of local production or resources). Korean products sold overseas are generally cheaper and of a higher quality since companies have actual competition. They should thank the companies (farming / car / department stores / electronics) being friendly with the government and then stirring up xenophobia towards foreign products for their own benefit.

    • Businessman

      The higher prices has nothing to do with “protectionist policies/protests”. There are no “protectionist policies” that are supposedly hindering Starbuck’s operation in Korea, for instance. It has everything to do with layers and layers of distribution companies taking out pies and passing the costs to the consumers. But this is not always the case. For instance, companies like Starbucks and other foreign imports that are seen as “luxury”, deliberately raise their prices to make their products seem like luxury. After the Free Trade Agreements with US and EU went into effect, most of the luxury goods companies, instead of lowering their prices, raised the prices instead. Their profits soared since their rising of the prices didn’t hurt the sales, as well as they pocketed the import taxes saved from elimination of tariffs.

      • Truck Furniture Maker

        Having an FTA doesn’t cover everything traded between countries. Secondarily, by protectionism I meant the audits and retroactive application of laws as protectionist as well. The majority of foreign CEOs (around 55 percent) have said Korea is a bad place to do business. While they site many reasons, the above two seem to be the most legitimate.

        • Businessman

          Oh really? How is it that EU has such a huge trade surplus with South Korea if business is that bad? It used to be the other way around before the FTA. South Korea’s BMW’s fourth best customer in the world. Louis Vitton’s sales in S.Korea doubled in five years, and even the peraniel loss making Ford Motor Company’s sales of cars have doubled after the FTA, while US beef sales in S.Korea trebled since the FTA.

          • Truck Furniture Maker

            Your reply while not directly covering what I said, did make my point further. Korean products and companies are not competitive in the EU because they can’t get the sweetheart deals they’ve gained in their home country. In the long run protectionism hurts the competitiveness of a country in the international market. Many Koreans have told me that Hyundai cars are cheaper and of better quality in countries outside of Korea; in order to keep up with competition. It would not surprise me at all if this was true. This is just my opinion, but I am not alone in this (in terms of Koreans in general and EU companies / trade officials).

          • Businessman

            “Korean products and companies are not competitive in the EU because they can’t get the sweetheart deals they’ve gained in their home country”

            Oh really? Having another look at the latest trade figures, I see that South Korea now has a slight trade surplus with Europe this year, with rising shipments to EU.


            The up and down trade figures vis a vie EU and S.Korea tell us right there that there is no protectionism factor in South Korea, with balance of trade going back and forth. It has everything to do with the economic conditions both in EU and Korea.

          • Truck Furniture Maker

            You are contradicting your previous statements and if you honestly believe there is “no protectionism factor in South Korea” I have a bridge to sell you.

    • Fracist

      With all of this complaining you are doing you left, right?

      • Truck Furniture Maker

        Oh here it comes the childish; if you don’t like the country leave. If I didn’t like the country I wouldn’t complain, or care. I complain more about America, but this article has nothing to do with that. The most patriotic thing someone can do is try to improve a country.

        Taking your opinion to it’s fullest. There are too many shootings in America. (GET OUT!) I feel like there is corruption in the U.S. party system (GET OUT!). Would you rather we just casually accept anything you disagree with in a country? Rant over!

        • Fracist

          No it’s not childish you didn’t get what I was saying. So I’ll explain, since you care why not do something about it instead of complaining on Koreabang? Protest, can’t do that? Make a forum or petition to try to get others to join you to but at least do something! With the corruption with the government people all of the time are doing something instead of complaining on the internet. I hate Monsanto you want to know what I did? I went to a Monsanto march in LA in May. A lot of people are all talk no action.

          • Truck Furniture Maker

            “you left, right?” You do realize what you wrote isn’t magically erased. That is not at all what your previous statement was.

          • Fracist

            Uh, ok? Bro, I don’t even remember but what is the point? Who cares? The point is and of course you ignored everything I said, is instead of complaining on the internet, do something. And that is why I am done with this conversation. Who ignores a whole entire comment and talks about something else, left field? I hate when people do that. You have a great day.

  • Fracist

    It’s not even that expensive. People love to complain if it’s so damn expensive don’t buy it, problem solved.

  • Barack Obama

    in china it’s like 6 times as much as USA

  • x1sfg

    Starbucks sucks.

  • An observer

    People in Korea tend to pay for image, not quality. That, combined with a mentality that puts anything inexpensive in a non-desirable category, inflates prices here to no end. I have never been to a country that screws it’s own as badly as Korea. Hyundai cars, Samsung phones and LG TV’s are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper in other countries, AND THEY ARE MADE HERE!!! If everyone simply stopped going to these coffee shops or stopped buying massively overpriced goods, the prices would come down very quickly.
    I believe the rent argument only goes so far. These coffee shops are ubiquitous across the country and yet, the prices stay the same no matter where you are. Is everyone else subsidizing Gangnam coffee drinkers? Also, the local conglomerate chains cost the same or more than the foreign chains. Honestly, the prices are that high because there are a lot of people willing to get ripped off here. If people will pay it, they will charge.

  • Old_Tamale

    Their coffee isn’t even that good. Besides, if you don’t like Starbucks prices, there are three other coffee shops next to Starbucks. In Korea, when you see one coffee shop, there are always two or three more next to it. That’s the Korean way.

  • Chucky3176

    South Korea badly needs to stop protecting multinationals, and form a strong pro consumer watch dog that will advocate for consumer rights, who will stop abuses by domestic companies and their monopolies, and also oversee shinanigans like this from German auto makers who have not dropped their prices since the FTA, but instead have raised them.


  • Do it

    Horseshit. It’s own by chaebol that requires ridiculous profit margin on top of Starbucks.
    Prices are a choice, consumers have the power. Be empowered to decide for yourself. Korean consumers have following: what, you can’t even buy coffee at the cool Starbucks? What’s wrong with you.
    Shame on you.

  • Sumi Allen

    I know I’m late to the party, but it’s better late than never. Why don’t the Starbucks in Koreatown Los Angeles have Korean baristas? Some that speak Korean? Since Koreans do keep those places very busy. The banks hire Koreans because the area is Korean and there’s a language barrier?

    As a matter of fact, when was the last time I’ve seen an Asian barista outside of Koreatown? Or at any American chained coffee bar in Koreatown? Exception is Peets. California Market has Peets and Coffee Bean, no Korean speaking barista at Coffee Bean?

    But I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen an Asian barista at Starbucks since… 2007 in San Francisco where a Japanese girl was working at one of the CLEANEST shops there. Nowadays, “clean” seems to no longer be synonymous with “Starbucks”.

    The beans at Starbucks are okay. Toms’ coffee beans are not the greatest. But the customer service at Bene Coffee, Toms and Concerto and the other little places in the Plaza were way better.

    BTW- there’s this coffee I found in L.A. called “Groundworks”. It’s expensive but I personally like it a lot. My other recommendation from L.A. is VCafe. See if you can order their beans online and ground them yourself. You won’t be sorry.

    Lassens sells a cup of Groundworks with flavored Stevia drops for $1.50 per cup and 50 cent refills. A Japanese restaurant called Yuko Kitchen in Miracle Mile does the same thing. In my opinion, the actual Groundworks Black Gold coffee is better than what you get straight at Starbucks. And real Turkish coffee (found at King’s cafe) is incredible. You will never do Starbucks again, unless you’re literally desperate for caffeine.

    Also, ground some beans to espresso fine and brew in a Moki pot. Some of the best quality beans sold in LA in bulk or bagged is going to save you so much money on coffee runs. And you get much better coffee.

  • Paul Shin

    Just recently I tried Starbucks coffee Americano style in Seoul and was astonished by the difference in taste. Unlike the U.S. version ( which really isn’t drinkable), the taste was better than any that I had tasted in the U.S. Of course it was pricier, but it was in line with other gourmet coffee in Seoul. So how is this possible, I thought and even considered bringing back some of its beans back into the U.S. Perhaps it’s necessary to compete with other more high quality coffee chain shops and the higher price and margin allows them to afford better coffee beans unlike in the U.S. whose consumers don’t care much about the taste? Whatever the case, I thought the price was well justified by the quality and the taste of the coffee they offered.

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