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[Opinion] McDonald’s

Posted November. 24, 2004 23:04,   


“The most well-known brand in the world is not necessarily the most respected,” Russia’s private NTV recently reported as above. It refers to McDonald’s, which is a multinational company that is suffering all over the world. One of the most well-known brands in the world, McDonald’s has won tremendous popularity, especially in the old socialism sphere of influence including Russia and Eastern Europe. Although McDonald’s was criticized as junk food as illustrated in the documentary movie, “Super Size Me,” which was a subject of conversation, the popularity is possible because it took root as the symbol of Western culture and capitalism in the old socialism sphere of influence.

Huge disturbances occurred because of the waves of people that congregated every time a new McDonald’s store opened in the major cities of the former Soviet Union including Moscow. The long queue in front of the first store in downtown Moscow once symbolized opening. It was strange how food never ran out no matter how many customers were there. Having the experience of turning back discouraged when groceries ran out after waiting all day to buy them during the socialistic society, Russians were “touched” by McDonald’s.

McDonald’s was amazing in terms of business ability and corporate strategy. It wrote that “smile is free” on every price list. It highlighted friendly and prompt service, which is a world away from the unfriendly and slow service of state-run restaurants. It was a surprising scene for the Soviet people in which employees in uniforms kindly greeted clients and served the “Big Mac” skillfully. Opening stores here and there was also an elaborate real estate investment once you know about it. There is nowhere in the core commercial zones in Russia’s major cities in which a McDonald’s store does not exist.

Nonetheless, McDonald’s fame is recently declining even in Russia. A bomb terrorism act occurred due to the “fight for influence zone” among Mafia organizations surrounding McDonald’s, and a woman in her 30s sued the company after she was burnt by coffee. Through conflict between labor and capital, the poor working conditions of the employees were also revealed. Russians, who were wild with enthusiasm about McDonald’s, the symbol of opening, are now starting to learn about “another truth” hidden in the ulterior, as if they started to realize that splendid capitalism they learned through McDonald’s is not always sweet.

Kim Ki-hyun, Moscow Correspondent, kimkihy@donga.com