|The Michelin Guide Seoul 2018 reads that Buchon Yukhoe raw beef restaurant occupies a corner of the "infamous" raw beef alley of Gwangjang Market, although its description written in Korean does not include any word having a negative connotation. / Courtesy of Rep. Lee Dong-sup|
Spelling errors, questionable reviews taint restaurant guide
By Park Jae-hyuk
The Michelin Guide Seoul continues to face credibility questions as the Korean version of the restaurant guide is still full of spelling mistakes and factual errors, according to a lawmaker and local chefs Wednesday.
The Michelin Guide Seoul 2019, which will be released Thursday, is attracting keen attention from restaurant owners, chefs and diners as to whether it will be free of controversial reviews and incorrect information.
Rep. Lee Dong-sup of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party said he discovered 130 errors in Michelin Guide Seoul 2018, the second edition of the restaurant guidebook published in 2017 for foodies in Korea.
For example, the book reads that Buchon Yukhoe raw beef restaurant occupies a corner of the "infamous" raw beef alley of Gwangjang Market, although its description written in Korean does not include any word having a corresponding negative connotation.
The lawmaker said he found the same error in the first edition of the guide.
The second edition also includes a French restaurant named Bistrot Chaugi, which closed long before the release of the guidebook.
"Michelin Guide Seoul 2018 was published in November 2017, but Bistrot Chaugi closed in the first half of 2017. This proves Michelin evaluates restaurants without visiting them," Lee said.
Another famous Korean barbeque restaurant named Samwon Garden does not serve customers in a garden, contradicting the guidebook's description.
The lawmaker accused the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) of signing an unfair contract with Michelin as the government-invested corporation does not have any rights to request the correction of errors in the guidebook, despite its payment of 2 billion won ($1.78 million) to Michelin.
According to the lawmaker, their contract provides that Michelin is the sole owner of the intellectual property related to the guidebook and their public communication should be under full control of the company.
"People are angry at the government as it cannot supervise the erroneous Michelin Guide Seoul which was produced using 2 billion won of taxpayers' money," Lee said. "The KTO should amend the unfair contract with Michelin to correct the errors."
In addition to the errors, some chefs doubt if Michelin maintains confidentiality until it publishes the guidebook.
Eo Yun-gwon, who runs an Italian restaurant named Ristorante EO which won a Michelin star in Michelin Guide Seoul 2017, claimed some owners of Michelin-starred restaurants had already been informed whether or not the new guidebook included their stores.
The chef said his restaurant will be excluded from the list of Michelin-starred restaurants in the third edition.
"Michelin said it selects restaurants under tight security, but I heard a month ago that MUOKI will be a new Michelin-starred restaurant this year," Eo wrote on Facebook.
The Korea Times called a Michelin Korea spokeswoman to ask for the company's comments on the complaints about the guidebook. However, the company has yet to give a response.
When it was criticized last year for incorrect information, a Michelin Guide Seoul official said at the time that restaurant owners had not mentioned any changes to their stores when Michelin tried to confirm all the information.