Kimchi is one of Korea's most iconic foods and can be found on almost every Korean table. However, in 2017, China started to claim that the Chinese-style pickled vegetables ‘paochai’ was the origin of kimchi and registered the standard with IOS(International Organization for Standardization), an international standard organization. The IOS announced that kimchi and paochai are different, but Ham Sowon referred to kimchi as paochai in a live broadcast in January of this year. China’s state media, the Global Times, also reported that the Chinese kimchi production method has become the international standard.
Kimchi as a dish was registered as an international standard by the International Food Commission under FAO in 2001. Various records show that kimchi is a historically traditional Korean dish. In ‘Donggukesanggukjip’, written by Lee Kyu-bo in the Goryeop period, there is a saying, "Radish made with Korean soy sauce is easy to eat in summer, and salted turnips become side dishes throughout winter." This means that historical Koreans preserved radish in salt for winter. Kimchi was made by seasoning vegetables pickled in salt in the Goryeo Dynasty, and this is a method unique to Korea. After the Japanese Invasion of Korea, chili peppers were introduced to Korea, and salted seafood was added making the kimchi that is commonly found in Korea today. In Korea, there is a custom called ‘Kimjang’, in which kimchi is maken in early winter. In 2013, Korea's kimjang was listed as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage by the 8th UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee. This further cements that kimchi is a Korean food, and even the kimjang custom has been officially proven to be quintessentially Korean. Then is paochai, which China claims is the origin of kimchi, actually similar to kimchi?
Kimchi and paochai differ in appearance and in their preparation methods. Kimchi is a fermented food, while paochai is a pickled food. Paochai is preserved and stored through sterilization, but kimchi is continuously fermented during preservation and storage to produce additional nutritional value. ‘Pao’ in paochai means ‘soaking in water’ which is a far cry from the methods used to prepare Korean kimchi. The spices of the two dishes are also different. Paochai’s flavor can vary greatly depending on the type, and can include spices such as chili peppers, star anise and laurel. However, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dropwort and brassica juncea are used for kimchi.
All of this evidence clearly shows that kimchi and paochai are distinctly different dishes, and that kimchi is a traditional Korean dish. ‘Kimchi’ is a dish registered as an international standard, and it is a part of Korean cultural heritage that cannot be replaced. Each country's culture has its own history and cultural background. Koreans should be knowledgeable about their own culture and heritage so that they can protect their culture from being stolen. No one should claim another country’s culture as their own.
By An So-yeon, cub-reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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