Debate over kimchi reflects close cultural bonds

Netizens from the Republic of Korea flocked to Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun's Twitter account and video star Li Ziqi’s YouTube account in recent days, claiming kimchi is Korean after the two shared videos and pictures about kimchi. Two experts shared their views on the kimchi debate with China Daily. Excerpts follow:

Editor’s note: Netizens from the Republic of Korea flocked to Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun's Twitter account and video star Li Ziqi’s YouTube account in recent days, claiming kimchi is Korean after the two shared videos and pictures about kimchi. Two experts shared their views on the kimchi debate with China Daily. Excerpts follow:

Kimchi is a common vegetable pickle on the Korean Peninsula and China. Korean kimchi was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list years ago. Some Korean people are keen on protecting and preserving their traditional cultural heritage. For most of them, kimchi is an important symbol and unique feature of Korean cuisine, and some even believe only Korean kimchi is authentic. However, just as some Chinese netizens wrote, Li and Zhang are just sharing moments from their lives.

Paocai, or pickles in Sichuan and kimchi in Northeast China are also quite famous and time-honored. Many families in China have unique kimchi or pickle recipes. The debate over kimchi reflects the existing problem of cultural exchange in the digital era. Currently, it is hard to distinguish "our" cultures and "other" cultures thanks to frequent business and cultural exchanges among different countries and regions.

It is understandable people love and are proud of their own cultures and want them to be "pure" and "authentic" in this diverse world. However, it is also necessary to accept cultures can gain strong influence and vitality by integrating into a globalized world.

People should keep their minds open to different cultures. Whether it is paocai or kimchi, Chinese and Korean people should appreciate each other’s efforts to promote culinary culture. .

Hui Ming, researcher at the China National Center for Culture Studies at the China Academy of Sciences. This is an excerpt of his interview with China Daily’s Zhang Xi.

Northeast China and the Korean Peninsula are geographically close. The two sides had a long history of cultural communication, so it is normal to have some similar customs.

For instance, the ROK highly values Confucian culture. And some cultural traditions have been shared in East Asian countries.

The traditions developed into similar customs with various forms and meanings as time goes on. It’s all right for netizens to claim an authentic origin of a tradition, but go too far if they incite misunderstandings and hurt people’s feelings.

Nowadays, despite political ups and downs, civil communication between China and the ROK has been comparatively stable.

Close economic and trade ties have helped maintain people-to-people exchanges. A lot of Korean ethnic people inhabit Northeast China’s Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces. Also, there are many people from the ROK who choose to work and study in China.

The friendship between China and the ROK has remained stable, with mutual assistance and cooperation in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, the debate among netizens over kimchi just reflects close cultural bonds. This close relationship should be cherished.

Xie Guijuan is a professor of international politics at Yanbian University, Jilin province.


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