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11 Dec, 2020 07:26

US envoy weighs in on South Korea v China online feud over which country is ‘original home of kimchi’ & hints at Seoul as winner

US envoy weighs in on South Korea v China online feud over which country is ‘original home of kimchi’ & hints at Seoul as winner

The US envoy to South Korea, Harry Harris, has apparently sided with Seoul after many Koreans rushed online to accuse China of trying to officially "appropriate" their favorite dish.

"So great to be here in the original home of #Kimchi – South Korea!" Harris tweeted, adding that he was "excited" to appear on a cooking show with a famous South Korean chef.

While the American diplomat did not mention China, Korean media quickly pointed out that his tweet came as South Koreans and the Chinese have been embroiled in an online battle over the alleged cultural appropriation of kimchi by Beijing.

The fight started late last month when Chinese media reported that Beijing had certified the process of making pao cai, a pickled vegetable dish from the China’s Sichuan region, with the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times was quoted as saying the move was setting "an international standard for the kimchi industry led by China."

The news sparked uproar in South Korea, with many blasting China on social media for trying to "steal" kimchi, which Koreans consider an integral part of their national cuisine and an inherent part of Korean culture. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a local academic accusing Beijing of "cultural appropriation" and saying that China "lacks efforts to understand the culture and history of surrounding nations."

South Korea’s Food and Agriculture Ministry said that pao cai and kimchi are two different dishes, and that China's ISO certificate "does not apply to kimchi."

The Global Times, meanwhile, described the feud as "confusion" caused by an "innocent" misunderstanding coming from an issue of translation. The dishes are very different, "despite both being called pao cai in Chinese [terminology]," the paper said on Tuesday.

The paper had earlier quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying saying that she was not aware of the debate about kimchi on social media, and that cooperation between the two nations outweighs the issue.

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