Dayeong’s Reflexive Essay on Harmonizing Food Culture with Modern Society

The way to be harmonized Korean food culture with modern society

When I found out about Korean traditional culture as a Korean folklore assignment, I searched about ‘Korean jang’ and ‘gamasot’ in detail. I was unaware of correlation between these two subjects in choosing subject. In hindsight, two subjects have something in common. They are connected with Korean food culture. In Korean, the necessaries of life are considered to be food, clothing and a place of live. Seeing that I choose two subjects related to food culture, I probably think food is most important thing among three things. So, through this assignment, I want to review modern value of Korean food culture and find a new method to inform its value. I classified Korean food culture into two sections – ‘food itself’ and other Korean food culture. In light of my folklore assignment, ‘Korean jang’ is ‘food itself’ and ‘gamasot’ is other Korean food culture.

First at all, I look for ‘food itself’. I think food can easily interact with people compared to other traditional culture. If we go to the major supermarket, we can find traditional Korean food. With the purpose of informing Korean culture to the world, Korean food is used and branded. I think, the theme of Korean traditional food is ‘slowness’ and ‘healthiness’. In the article written by Han Gyeong-Gu, he mentioned about one of the traditional Korean food, gimchi(kimchi). He said that “A new interest in healthy cuisine has fostered a new regard for traditional Korean food”(Han. 2011: 150). We can know about theme of ‘healthiness’ into not only gimchi but also traditional food setting. By looking Korean food setting(sangcharim), we can know our ancestors ate nutritional food. Han also said that “The slowness of kimchi seems to refer to the fermentation process itself”(Han. 2011: 153). In the cases of gimchi and ‘Korean jang’, it is needed fermentation. In my ‘Korean Sauces, Jang’ video, I also mentioned this fermentation process. “The main ingredients in three Korean sauces or Jang are beans and they are fermented, ripened and stored. Through the processes, fermentation changes the properties of the ingredients and makes a unique flavor for the Jang”(Yi. 2014: 0.44-0.57). The process called fermentation is basically time-consuming. And gimchi and Jang is basic element for making Korean food. So, I think the term of ‘slowness’ could be used the theme of Korean traditional food.

I think, other Korean food culture can be included many things – manners, tools for eating food(spoon, chopsticks, traditional pot called gamasot, etc), community for making food and so on. Among this many things, I want to find out about ‘community for making food’. Han mentioned related content like “kimchi network” and said that “The network provided not only kimchi but also the opportunity to learn how to make better kimchi and how to live together”(Han. 2011:151). I also think Korean food is related certain group. In my ‘gamasot’ video, I said gamasot is connected family culture like that “Gamasot is necessary for Korean traditional Kitchens, and representative of family. When some family establishes a residence or moves into a new house, first of all they hang the gamasot on the Wood-burning stove. In this kind of practice, it is said that family members or people who live together for a long time are ‘eating hansotbab’ or ‘eating rice from the same gamasot’”(Yi. 2014: 0.39-1.07). I think this community comes from Korean traditional family or village culture. In old days, extended family was a very common style of a family and all people who lived in same village was on friendly terms with each other. This family or village culture makes an impact to food culture.

But, these days, the value I mention above of Korean traditional food is being lost. I think the value of Korean traditional food comes from its devotion and the process of making Korean food. As time passed, this process is simplified and substituted by someone else. “It has becoming possible to enjoy kimchi as a sort of instant food. This is quite ironic because kimchi is often praised by the Korean press for the “slowness” of its production and its healthiness”(Han. 2011: 153). I don’t think change is bad for Korean culture. Today, even ancestral rites are simplified and offspring bought some of ritual food at major supermarket, it didn’t mean lack of devotion. So, I think during making or eating Korean food, if you can feel its devotion, it is also good to feel our tradition. In explaining my other experience, I have had traditional class about making gimchi for Japanese students who are visiting to Korea. In class, instructor told the students about ingredient and process one by one. And then we can experience last process of making gimchi – just mixing kimchi seasoning. I think, this kind of class is also needed for Korean as well as Foreigner. It can be present interest and information about Korean traditional food.

As the structure of the traditional family is disintegrating and people barely says hello between the neighbors, we don’t find traditional food community like it used to be. I think instead of traditional community, by making new form of food community, we can overcome crisis of food community. Most people who like cooking foods may experience that finding new recipe through internet or SNS. Of course, direct experience is most important thing to develop culture. But, through new form of data – not only writing but also photo, video etc, I think we can overcome some differences between direct experience and indirect information.


Han, Gyeong-Gu. “The Kimchi Wars in Globalizing East Asia.” In Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity, edited by Laurel Kendall. 149-166. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.

Korean Sauces, Jang. Accessed on 12/8/2014.

Gamasot – Korean traditional Cooking Pots Accessed on 12/8/2014.