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[Opinion] Kimjang

Posted October. 27, 2003 22:58,   


A canned Kimchi appeared for the first time in the 1960s. The product was manufactured for the purpose of offering to the Korean armies dispatched to Vietnam. At that time, we did not know much of the preservation technology in low-temperature and therefore, had no choice but to put heated Kimchi in airtight containers. Kimchi usually tastes the best when it has matured in low temperature around five degrees Celsius. A canned Kimchi processed with heat might be far from a real Kimchi in terms of its taste and nutrition. However, this canned Kimchi had been a great consolation to those Korean armies who missed their home country. For Korean people, their love in Kimchi is that special.

Even 20 - 30 years ago, Kimchi was taken as “semi-provisions in winter” and there were few families who did not prepare for Kimjang. Due to the cold winter weather, there was nothing but Kimjang Kimchi, the only possible vegetable that could be found in such season. However, it was troublesome to pickle a large amount of vegetables, to dig a ground and store underneath. To reduce such troubles, there once was a slogan of the modernization of Kimjang - “If we only seek for the conveniences, then the tradition of Kimjang should no longer exist.” With advanced technology of the greenhouse culture, it is now possible to grow cabbages all the year round, and we can still buy and eat vegetables other than Kimchi. Packed Kimchi are displayed everywhere in convenient stores with a reasonable price.

Nevertheless, there are roughly three points as to why Kimjang traditions can still survive in such an era. First, the taste of Kimjang Kimchi differs by region and by family. We can never buy the unique taste of mom’s recipes from any stores. Secondly, the technology of Kimchi refrigerator is maintaining it. Kimchi fridge lightens the burden in large aspect for preservation. Thirdly, Kimjang took its place as traditional Korean customs. It became an annual event of assuring a family unity by preparing foods for the winter season, not to mention we feel the same while eating Kimjang Kimchi that is filled with care.

A discount store, Lotte Mart, recently took a survey from 310 housewives, resulting in three out of ten housewives turning out to have nothing to do with Kimjang this year. The reasons are, according to those in forties, they are “tired of doing Kimjang” and those in their twenties said they “do not know how to prepare it.” If those are the only reasons, a solution is quite feasible. Mothers in their forties and fifties can teach Kimjang and sons, daughters, and their spouses can learn how to prepare it from their mothers. This purpose is not simply limited to making Kimchi. Divorce rate in Korea became the second highest in the world, especially among the younger couples, who tend to break up even before they register their marriage. It seems that not only is Kimchi becoming a “disposable” subject but also the value of family is being lost. With Kimchi’s time-taking preservation recipe, we should be able to find and teach the way to form a mature family relationship.

Chun Kwang-am Editorial Writer iam@donga.com