Korean Kimchi Diplomacy
Food is perhaps the most characteristic aspect of any nation’s culture and identity. National cuisine carries history, traditions, craftsmanship, and virtues that are passed down through each generation. Besides being a physical record of history, national cuisine also brings people together. In the age of globalization and mass global migration, food has the special ability to instantly transport you to a different, heartwarming place.
As an avid fan of Korean cuisine, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how easily I can find Kimchi in the imported section of every supermarket I’ve been to, no matter in which country and city I look. Given the role of kimchi in promoting Korean culture, it certainly has earned the reputation of being South Korea’s number one ambassador. Furthermore, kimchi is a Korean ambassador that is accessible to everyone and can be easily shared with people to create new friendships.
‘Gastrodiplomacy’ was coined in the early 2000s and has since given rise to many initiatives across Asia to use food as a source of national branding and cultural diplomacy. Positioning Korean cuisine at the forefront of South Korean public diplomacy, kimchi portrays South Korea in a positive light that resonates with foodies around the world.
Apart from being a carrier of Korean tradition and culture, this national dish is also what many people outside of the country and even Asia first think of when they hear the word “Korea”. The positive experiences that people have had with Korean cuisine definitely add bonus points to how the country is perceived internationally.
Moreover, with so many varieties of kimchi to choose from, there’s truly something for everyone. And with its digestive benefits, kimchi is both delicious and a superfood that steals the hearts of people around the world. What gives the kimchi its uniqueness as an icon of South Korean gastrodiplomacy is how accessible the dish is.
No matter if you are a seasoned chef or someone who’s just stepped into the kitchen for the first time, anyone can make kimchi, and make it taste good. The process of making kimchi just might be another reason why it’s so popular around the world, which adds to people’s good impressions of South Korea. And talking about the diplomatic power of the iconic red and spicy kimchi, till date, I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like Korean food paired with banchan!
Kimchi diplomacy has also attracted me to visit South Korea multiple times to experience the many aspects of Korean culture. From the country’s history and language to popular culture icons like K-pop and Korean dramas, I am fascinated with all that Korea has to offer!
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that this all started because of a plate of kimchi but thinking about it again, isn’t it amazing how a simple dish be filled with so much passion that invites you to explore a whole new world?
To me, South Korean gastrodiplomacy is perhaps one of the most successful cases in the world. Apart from Thailand and South Korea, how many countries can claim to have an increasingly popular soft power food icon? Because of this dish, South Korea readily exports its culture and receives tourists from all around the world to experience the Land of the Kimchi!