Kimjang Losing Its Meaning

  • Arirang News

    December 07, 2000 15:30

    Now's the season for what's known as "kimjang" in Korea. Time to make triple or quadruple the normal amount of "kimchi" a spicy traditional side dish of pickled vegetables before winter comes knocking on the door.

    Long before green houses or refrigerators, ancient Koreans had stored batches of kimchi underground to last them through the freezing cold up until spring time. However, over the years, this annual event of "kimjang" has begun to lose its place in the Korean culture.

    A recent survey has found that the percentage of Korean women in their twenties who actually do "kimjang" these days, doesn't even amount to a third of their mother's generation.

    The Capital Seoul last month conducted a phone survey on 500 housewives asking whether they planned to do "kimjang" this year. The results showed a stark contrast between those in their twenties and fifties by almost 54 percent.

    Instead of going through the hassle of "kimjang" many housewives had alternatives like asking for kimchi from relatives or making small amounts of kimchi now and then or buying it ready-made.

    According to industry observers, people nowadays are just too busy or can't be bothered to go through the ordeal. Especially when kimchi is available in supermarkets and greenhouses provide fresh vegetables all year round. But another reason is a newly developed creation called the "kimchi refrigerator" which guarantees freshness for up to four months all the more reason for people not to find the need for "kimjang." By the end of this year, as many as 1.1 million kimchi refrigerators are expected to be sold meaning one out of five Korean households will own one of them.

    The meaning of "kimjang," historians explain goes beyond the process of making massive piles of kimchi for winter provisions. In the beginning it had meant exchanging labor between neighbors. And within the family, a mother passing down to her daughter one's devotion to creating the perfect taste. And those who stick to "kimjang" say it is these age-old traditions that Koreans should learn to preserve and pass down to future generations.

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