Korean Food- A Symbol of Korean Culture

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               The word “culture” has never been talked about much until recently. Various patterns of lives exist together in the frame of culture. It is the characteristics of a modern society that all aspects of life become complex and diverse. However, it does not mean that a whole new society is created out from the discontinuance of the past. Therefore, there is “cultural tradition” which is breathing in the complex modern society. The unique tradition of our nation remains in our basic food, clothing, and shelter . In particular, the food has different characteristics from Western culture. We live in an apartment or Western style house and wear Western clothes but preserve our own food culture by eating rice and kimchi instead of bread and meat. In general food culture is very conservative. Of course, our food culture has been changed and has become westernized compared with the past. These phenomena will become more serious. Inherent Korean foods are disappearing, and children refuse to eat “Korean” food such as kimchi, which is becoming a societal problem. However, the slogan “body and earth cannot be separated” is still appealing to the public with regards to “food.” Namely, the remnant of tradition is easily found in the field of food culture, and our traditional food is praise worthy, considering its creative adaptation to the rapidly changing modern society. We always find the essence of living Korean culture in this vitality and tenacity for preserving the Korean food.

            Many agree on the importance of local eco-centrism—that our local land must breathe amidst the “globalization,” that the world is becoming one. Many people critically think about where to look for our cultural identity from our old past in order to dream for a beautiful future. There is a phrase called “old future.” What shall we do for our happy future of enjoying good food? However, it is hard to examine the direction for future society while we have not assessed accurately the current position of modern Korean culture. It is impossible to understand “now” if we do not consider the flow of time and the “past.” Therefore, we need to establish a starting point to find both the “now” and “past.” Food culture is considered to be the field of our daily life, in which “present” and “tradition” coexist and interact together. At the same time, our food shows the cultural identity of our food for the thousands of years. Therefore, we would like to find the essence of Korean culture from our food which has been considered an outsider of our culture.

Traditional food has to be developed and enjoyed in daily life. If not, the effort of highlighting the excellence of traditional food will fail easily. There are some education and public relations methods used to highlight the excellence of our traditional food but it is still insufficient. Traditional food has to be considered in a cultural code. If not, Korean food will not survive. We have excellent food such as kimchi and a dish of mixing cooked and seasoned vegetables for the “well-being” generation. We need to package and promote these to the international level and to claim a firm position for our food among advanced countries in the 21st century. For this, it is necessary to read about and communicate Korean food through a cultural aspect. The answer is simple. We can make food a cultural product. Korean food has already become an excellent cultural product, which has caught the attention of the world, and it also has great future opportunity.

The drama “Daejangkeum”, which was a great hit not only in China but also in many Asian countries, even in African countries, shows how cooking can make a region as the grounds for sustaining our food life. This was a live text example that showed how Korean food can become globalized. Jangkeum was a local scientist and a medical scholar. Her cooking process involved an integrated action with knowledge on the ingredient, local ecosystem, and the effect of food on the body. The reason Daejangkeum was such a big hit was not only because it “directly” showcased Korean food, but it interestingly revealed that cooking affects other lives while using the resource of social relationship and local resource. With the big hit of Daejangkeum, many foreign people understood Korean food and they wanted to learn more about Korean food culture. Cooking is to pursue the knowledge on the local ecosystem and a way to cure our body. The food itself needs to be developed as an excellent cultural product, at the same time it is also important to be developed as cultural contents.