Does it matter whose “Kimchi”it is?

Cultural disputes between China and South Korea

In recent years, South Korea has been active in the declaration of cultural heritage. Palace Jongmyo sacrificial rites and music, Gangneung Dragon Boat Festival has been selected as the world’s intangible cultural heritage. Since ancient Korea was in the circle of Chinese civilization, the traditional material cultures of China and South Korea are quite similar. Therefore, the news of the successful application of South Korea’s traditional culture as a World Heritage Site has aroused heated discussion among Chinese people. Many netizens believe that South Korea is “stealing” the achievements of Chinese traditional civilization.And the fight spilled over into social media.

Chinese vlogger making paocai
Chinese vlogger Li Ziqi is making Chinese paocai.

On Jan. 9, Li Ziqi posted a video on YouTube in which she treated the cabbage in two different ways, soaking it in salt and slathering it with chili pepper, then sealing it and preserving it. Results the video attracted South Korea netizen discontent, have in the comments section of crazy point rating, “remember, kimchi is Korean traditional food”,“Thank the Chinese for introducing the Korean delicacies kimchi”,all directions follow different voice, again led to a battle over the origins of sino-south Korean kimchi.

The incident has sparked yet another spat over cultural affiliation between the two historically close neighbours.In the past, netizens in the two countries have been engaged in heated disputes over the relationship between Han Chinese Clothing and hanbok.

The drawing that caused a debate between Chinese and South Korean netizens about traditional clothing.

Leaving aside the question of origin arising from historical issues, the rights and wrongs of this debate are not complicated. What is thought-provoking is the sense of crisis of national culture hidden behind the debate. This is the core reason why the “kimchi controversy” has spread from overseas to China’s domestic social media platforms and become a hot news topic. This sense of national culture crisis is behind the more and more attention to the embodiment of traditional culture. In the end, this dispute should be about how to protect the reflection of traditional culture.

Culture itself is constantly refurbished in the process of blending, such as Chinese culture, European and American culture, and Korean culture is naturally no exception. In the process of blending, it is inevitable that many things of their own nation will be added. It is very common in all countries that textbooks emphasize the “subjectivity” of their own cultural elements when telling the history of their own countries.

In fact, the protection of intangible cultural heritage in South Korea is relatively outstanding. As early as the 1960s, South Korea began to focus on the collection and sorting of traditional ethnic and folk cultures. The protection measures of intangible cultural heritage in South Korea have valuable experience for reference. In recent years, the Chinese government has also paid more and more attention to the protection of intangible cultural heritages. In August 2004, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress approved the United Nations Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. However, due to previous historical reasons, China’s traditional culture and historical relics have been destroyed on a large scale, and many traditional cultures have been lost. China still has a long way to go in terms of cultural protection.

For the intangible cultural heritage, too entangled in its attribution, is undoubtedly a narrow nationalist mistake. Regardless of the origin theory, we should pay more attention to how to protect traditional culture, how to protect the common cultural heritage of mankind. With the attitude of a scholar, leading the public, opposing narrow nationalism and advocating cultural inclusiveness and diversity are the proper attitudes for cultural protection.