SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Korea Bizwire) — A Chinese media report has sparked controversy over the origin of kimchi.
The Chinese state daily tabloid Global Times has angered South Koreans after claiming that China’s recent International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification humiliated South Korea.
The South Korean government, in response, retorted that the debate had ended 19 years ago.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a body under the United Nations, officially recognized the industrial standard for kimchi in 2001, which stated ingredients, food additives labeling and the name of the product.
China’s push to standardize pao cai, the so-called ‘Sichuan kimchi’, only began last year.
As for why China is particularly ‘interested’ in South Korean kimchi, experts point to China’s recent actions.
Certain groups in China have recently been making false claims that Korea’s traditional clothes, songs, and other representative cultures originated in China.
Experts argue that China’s recent ‘assault’ on South Korean kimchi is part of efforts to reap the benefits of the success and popularity of Korean kimchi.
“Almost everyone knows about Korean kimchi, but not pao cai. That’s why China is making such a fuss,” said Prof. Ju Yeong-ha from the Academy of Korean Studies.
“They are trying to boost pao cai’s reputation by making strange claims that kimchi is also pao cai.”
China’s sudden interest in standardizing pao cai is rooted in financial interests.
According to the World Institute of Kimchi, China began to take keen interest in kimchi following the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, ‘re-exporting’ larger amounts of cheap kimchi made in China to South Korea.
Last year, South Korea exported 60,000 tons of kimchi while importing 300,000 tons from overseas, 99 percent of which was from China, due to high demand among restaurants and food vendors for its affordability.
China’s strategy to industrialize and standardize pao cai, after seeing exports of kimchi boom, is now going hand in hand with the country’s state media trying to exaggerate the issue.
Sichuan Province is the country’s largest pao cai producer, spearheading recent efforts to acquire ISO certification. Korean kimchi, on the other hand, is mostly made in Shandong Province.
The prospects for South Korean kimchi exports to China, however, look grim, calling on the need to reinstate the country’s reputation as the original producer of kimchi.
“Ceaseless consumption of kimchi, as well as the blending of the kimchi culture in the country is critical to retaining the status as the suzerain of kimchi,” said Cho Jeong-eun, head of Strategy and Planning at the World Institute of Kimchi.
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)