|▲ Koryodang / CEO Kang Sung-wook|
Befor Masan was included as a district of Changwon City, it was the trend leader of South Gyeongsang Province with Chang-dong and Odong-dong as the center of the vibe. A story goes that up until 80s, taxi drivers in Masan earned the highest in the nation. Entering the new millennium, it saw a rapid decline and leave of visitors and stores. Nevertheless, Koryodang on the heart of the Chang-dong still stand still observing the rise and decline of the city in silence.
Kang worked in Seoul and decided to turn back home to Masan to live with his mother with a bakery job. Kim Soon-yeon who sold 'pull-pang' - small round red bean bread - on the street, opened Koryodang in 1959 and her children took over the business afterwards. But the store soon put on the market early 2000 due to rapid decline of commercial supremacy of the area. And Kang took the change and took over the business.
"I made 130,000 won ($108) on the first day of business. So I needed to change something and I started with new menus that are simple and instant and better and fresher. I also poured great effort in making a new customer services manual. Then I started to see a gradual increase of customers and the business was soon settled" said Kang.
Around 180 kinds of breads are being made by 20 highly experienced bakers with each different specialities from dough making and measuring to baking. There is no representative menu in Koryodang but newly developed are constantly introduced while the less popular are taken away from the shelves. However, all of the staff are wearing the uniform marked with 'Thanks For Keeping Us Going'.
"I start my work at the store 7 in the morning everyday. I record all ingredients used and methods to make each bread for future reference and for development of new and better bread."
Having obtained a baker certificate for more than 7 years, Kang is entitled to challenge a master baker certificate but he does not want to.
"I feel uncomfortable engaging in activities of associations and clubs after obtaining the certificate. It is understandable that one might be tempted for a fame of his respected field but I feel I'm just happy enough to be a baker and run my own business."
In the year 2015, Koryodang in Seoul asked Kang to change its name as they opened the business first with the very name in Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam, Seoul, in 1945. Kang then punched back that Koryodang in Masan has been run on the business since 1959 so he could not and would not have the slightest inclination to change the name. The dispute moved onto the court which ruled in Kang favor.
Winning the legal battle greatly motivated Kang to engage more frequently in volunteer activities to help people in need alongside running the business. Because his neighbors and the residents of Masan district are the one who keeps his business rolling in the name of Koryodang. And he is and his staff are proud of it and determined to hold the name as long as history goes.
김태인 기자 firstname.lastname@example.org