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Kimchi feud: Korea rallies support from foreign envoys

Korea's staple side dish kimchi / gettyimagesbank
Korea's staple side dish kimchi / gettyimagesbank

Some Seoul-based foreign envoys share kimchi-making vlogs amid dispute between South Korea, China

By Park Han-sol

With regard to cultural diplomacy to strengthen their claim on the fermented dish kimchi, China is overt, whereas South Korea is discreet.

On Jan. 3, Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun raised the eyebrow of Koreans with his "odd" social media post. He uploaded photos featuring himself making kimchi.

"Winter life can also be colorful and enjoyable. One option is to try some homemade kimchi by yourself. Not too difficult. My colleagues said it's super tasty," he wrote. In one photo, he holds up his homemade kimchi, and in another, raises his thumb up with the dish placed in a plastic container.

Such a post featuring a Chinese envoy promoting Korea's staple side-dish came weeks after Chinese state-run media the Global Times' dubious report about kimchi. Its claim was interpreted among Koreans as their neighbor's move to lay claim to Korean culture, causing them to speculate on Zhang's motives as well.

The kimchi feud between South Korea and China was rekindled last week. This time, the cultural dispute has gone multilateral. Several foreign envoys based in Seoul became unwittingly involved in the clash by unveiling their kimchi-making videos.

The embassies of Hungary, Denmark and Belgium posted videos and photos of their ambassadors' preparation of the dish with the DIY Kimchi kit provided by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS).

Earlier, the culture ministry affiliate reportedly checked with dozens of Seoul-based foreign embassies to see if they would be interested in getting the kit containing pickled cabbages and spices in celebration of the Lunar New Year holiday. Eighteen answered favorably to such inquires.



Hungarian Ambassador to Seoul Mozes Csoma produced a seven-minute vlog, where he and his three sons made kimchi together at the embassy's official residence, while discussing in Korean different types of and recipes for the fermented dish. Csoma also introduced a Hungarian dish that is in a way similar to kimchi ― szekely kaposzta, made of cabbages without chili seasoning.

Ambassador of Denmark to Seoul Einar H. Jensen makes kimchi in this photo posted Feb. 4 on the embassy's official social media accounts. Captured from Facebook
Ambassador of Denmark to Seoul Einar H. Jensen makes kimchi in this photo posted Feb. 4 on the embassy's official social media accounts. Captured from Facebook
The video and photo of Danish Ambassador Einar H. Jensen with a bowl of spiced cabbage was released across the embassy's different social media accounts, Feb. 4. Under the post titled "The Taste of Korea: Kimchi," he explained his attempt at gimjang (a winter activity at Korean households for making and storing kimchi) as he added the ready-made chili paste to each leaf of the cabbage.

"It looks great. I look forward to tasting it," Jensen said at the end of the video, with the post adding that the handmade kimchi needs to be left to rest for a week first.

The Embassy of Belgium in Seoul also posted photos of its staff members preparing the side dish, Feb. 10, stating that "it was a great way to have a small teambuilding exercise and let our newest staff members discover the tradition of Korean Kimchi making."

Similarly, in December 2020, the former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris appeared in a video hosted by the Asia Society Korea, where he learned how to make the fermented dish with celebrity chef Lee Hye-jung.

Former U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris learns how to make kimchi from Chef Lee Hye-jung in this YouTube video posted Dec. 23, 2020, by the Asia Society Korea. Captured from YouTube
Former U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris learns how to make kimchi from Chef Lee Hye-jung in this YouTube video posted Dec. 23, 2020, by the Asia Society Korea. Captured from YouTube

As a preview to his encounter with Lee, Harris described South Korea as the "original home" of kimchi in one of his tweets, adding that he was "excited to learn how to make the most authentic, delicious and 'Made-in-Korea' Kimchi." Later, he posted he was eager to finally try the dish he made with the hashtag #originalKimchifromKorea, repeatedly focusing on the dish's origin.


Korea's staple side dish kimchi / gettyimagesbank
Korea's staple side dish kimchi / gettyimagesbank

Some Seoul-based foreign envoys share kimchi-making vlogs amid dispute between South Korea, China

By Park Han-sol

With regard to cultural diplomacy to strengthen their claim on the fermented dish kimchi, China is overt, whereas South Korea is discreet.

On Jan. 3, Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun raised the eyebrow of Koreans with his "odd" social media post. He uploaded photos featuring himself making kimchi.

"Winter life can also be colorful and enjoyable. One option is to try some homemade kimchi by yourself. Not too difficult. My colleagues said it's super tasty," he wrote. In one photo, he holds up his homemade kimchi, and in another, raises his thumb up with the dish placed in a plastic container.

Such a post featuring a Chinese envoy promoting Korea's staple side-dish came weeks after Chinese state-run media the Global Times' dubious report about kimchi. Its claim was interpreted among Koreans as their neighbor's move to lay claim to Korean culture, causing them to speculate on Zhang's motives as well.

The kimchi feud between South Korea and China was rekindled last week. This time, the cultural dispute has gone multilateral. Several foreign envoys based in Seoul became unwittingly involved in the clash by unveiling their kimchi-making videos.

The embassies of Hungary, Denmark and Belgium posted videos and photos of their ambassadors' preparation of the dish with the DIY Kimchi kit provided by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS).

Earlier, the culture ministry affiliate reportedly checked with dozens of Seoul-based foreign embassies to see if they would be interested in getting the kit containing pickled cabbages and spices in celebration of the Lunar New Year holiday. Eighteen answered favorably to such inquires.



Hungarian Ambassador to Seoul Mozes Csoma produced a seven-minute vlog, where he and his three sons made kimchi together at the embassy's official residence, while discussing in Korean different types of and recipes for the fermented dish. Csoma also introduced a Hungarian dish that is in a way similar to kimchi ― szekely kaposzta, made of cabbages without chili seasoning.

Ambassador of Denmark to Seoul Einar H. Jensen makes kimchi in this photo posted Feb. 4 on the embassy's official social media accounts. Captured from Facebook
Ambassador of Denmark to Seoul Einar H. Jensen makes kimchi in this photo posted Feb. 4 on the embassy's official social media accounts. Captured from Facebook
The video and photo of Danish Ambassador Einar H. Jensen with a bowl of spiced cabbage was released across the embassy's different social media accounts, Feb. 4. Under the post titled "The Taste of Korea: Kimchi," he explained his attempt at gimjang (a winter activity at Korean households for making and storing kimchi) as he added the ready-made chili paste to each leaf of the cabbage.

"It looks great. I look forward to tasting it," Jensen said at the end of the video, with the post adding that the handmade kimchi needs to be left to rest for a week first.

The Embassy of Belgium in Seoul also posted photos of its staff members preparing the side dish, Feb. 10, stating that "it was a great way to have a small teambuilding exercise and let our newest staff members discover the tradition of Korean Kimchi making."

Similarly, in December 2020, the former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris appeared in a video hosted by the Asia Society Korea, where he learned how to make the fermented dish with celebrity chef Lee Hye-jung.

Former U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris learns how to make kimchi from Chef Lee Hye-jung in this YouTube video posted Dec. 23, 2020, by the Asia Society Korea. Captured from YouTube
Former U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris learns how to make kimchi from Chef Lee Hye-jung in this YouTube video posted Dec. 23, 2020, by the Asia Society Korea. Captured from YouTube

As a preview to his encounter with Lee, Harris described South Korea as the "original home" of kimchi in one of his tweets, adding that he was "excited to learn how to make the most authentic, delicious and 'Made-in-Korea' Kimchi." Later, he posted he was eager to finally try the dish he made with the hashtag #originalKimchifromKorea, repeatedly focusing on the dish's origin.


박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr


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