Paris Baguette, a South Korean chain, has a new location in Paris. Inti Landauro/The Wall Street Journal

SEOUL—When Catherine Germier-Hamel arrived in Seoul eight years ago with her husband, a French diplomat, the 45-year-old Parisian and French-bread lover was delighted to find outlets of a store called Paris Baguette on many street corners.

But then Ms. Germier-Hamel bit into her first baguette. The bread was rubbery, she recalls, and “awful.”

“For them to call themselves ‘Paris Baguette’ here in Korea is not a problem. I’d even say it’s funny,” Ms. Germier-Hamel says. “But if there was a Paris Baguette in France, I think I would be upset.”

Paris Baguette now has come to Paris. The new location, the first in France, is within walking distance of both the Louvre and Notre Dame.

Sausage pastry

Ms. Germier-Hamel says that her compatriots may not take kindly to new concoctions, like Paris Baguette’s popular “cheese sausage pastry,” which wraps a hot dog in a cheesy glazed pastry, smothered in ketchup and mayonnaise.

“Maybe we are chauvinistic, but French people here don’t think there is any French thing in Paris Baguette,” Ms. Germier-Hamel says.

The bakery chain, founded in 1988 by Korean businessman Hur Young-in, says it wants to be to global French-style bakery chains what McDonald’s is to the hamburger. The company’s ambitious blueprint aims to plant stores in 60 countries over the next six years.

Paris Baguette’s management contests the notion that it can’t serve as the face of French-style baking around the world. “There’s no reason a Korean company can’t become the best French bakery chain in the world,” Ahn Tae-ju, a company executive who has helped plan Paris Baguette’s overseas expansion, said in an interview.

In South Korea, Paris Baguette operates about 3,250 outlets, not counting a slew of faux-French affiliates—L’Atelier, Le Pommier, and Petit 5. In countries other than France, including China, the U.S., Singapore and Vietnam, Paris Baguette calls itself a “traditional French bakery” and prominently features the Eiffel Tower in its logo. In its outlets, shop employees working the cash registers wear Breton stripes and berets.

In many cases, the chain has made it overseas by playing down the fact that it’s actually Korean. In fact, many Koreans didn’t know Paris Baguette was a local company until a few years ago, says Mr. Ahn. While the chain’s predilection for sugary baked goods—often heavily glazed and filled with cream—hits the sweet spot with Asian consumers, success in France won’t come as easily.

France is home not only to Paris and the baguette, but also to some of the most demanding bread lovers in the world, people who are famously finicky about a food many consider part of the national identity.

Paris Baguette’s dough is made in a factory an hour’s drive south of Seoul before it is frozen and shipped to the company’s branches around the world, though not yet to France for on-site baking.

So far, none of this has been an obstacle to the company’s growth in Asia and the U.S. But some French expatriates in South Korea wonder whether the company’s success has gone to its head.

“If people in China and Singapore think that Paris Baguette is French bread —from my point of view, I think it’s sad,” says Guillaume Diepvens, a Frenchman whose namesake bakery in Seoul is considered by many expats to be the most authentic in town.

So far, Mr. Hur and his team, keenly aware of the challenges of selling bread to the French, are striking the right tone. “We regard France as the spiritual home of our bakery products,” Mr. Hur said in a statement.

Mr. Hur has also carefully courted the French government, which has made him an officer in the National Order of Merit and a knight in the Order of Agricultural Merit, which entitles him to wear two ribbons for his contributions to French cuisine.

At Paris Baguette’s Paris outlet, which is registered with the Chambre Professionnelle des Artisans Boulangers-Pâtissiers, a local trade group, the company says it aims to “preserve the artisan traditions of its Parisian predecessors.”

At least at first, it will employ only local chefs and use “only traditional French bakery ingredients and methods” at the branch. The stuffed breads and creamy cakes will come later, a company spokesman said.

Paris Baguette found success at home and abroad by offering a local twist on French bread, eschewing soft, salty grains in favor of sweet, gooey confections.

The plan worked, and Paris Baguette’s parent company, SPC Group, grew quickly. The Paris location “looks like a family-owned business,” said Veronique Soenen, a 44-year-old pharmaceutical company worker, as she bit into an éclair au chocolat.

But not everyone is happy about the makeover.

Lee Kang-san, a 23-year-old medical student in Paris, was so excited by the arrival of Paris Baguette that he made a point of visiting the store on opening day in search of the creamy pastries he had come to love in Korea.

“We wanted to taste products we like back home and can’t find in Paris,” Mr. Lee said. “We were a bit disappointed.”

—Inti Landauro in Paris contributed to this story.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at