Source: The World Institute of Kimchi
Kimjang, Korea Connected and Unified by Kimchi
For Koreans, kimjang means more than just preparing kimchi for the winter. Kimjang requires preparing enough kimchi in early winter to make it last throughout winter, but furthermore, it is a special seasonal event gathering families, neighbors, and friends to have fun and enjoy working together. Winter sets in around November 7 in Korea, as temperatures fall below zero with frosts, and the first snow of the season starts approximately in November 22ndㅡthe best time to make kimchi. “Kimjang” means making kimchi around this period for the whole family to enjoy kimchi all winter long.
Korea’s kimjang tradition represents our ancestors’ wisdom by adapting to seasonal changes. Sharing and making enough kimchi enabled people to overcome long and cold winter. Although each region and household have its own way of making kimchi, one thing in common is that kimjang promotes connections by joining families together. It is like an exciting festival expressing the fun-loving Korean spirit with families and friends. Although it is unclear when kimjang first started, we can guess how kimjang was like in the past in “Gapoyugyeong: Poem of Six Vegetables” in Donggukisanggukjip(1241) by Yi Kyubo. A phrase states, “We can prepare for the summer season by storing the radish in the crock and the long winter by preserving it in salt.” Through this, we can see that kimjang was pretty much the same now and then, as Koreans still make kimchi with turnips to prepare for winter. Kimjang, which has been around for a long time, has many memories of times that individuals and social communities remember together.
In the 1950s and 1960s, some schools conducted kimchi vacations to help kimchi-making during kimjang season. Companies paid kimchi bonuses for kimjang until the 1990s. Since 2000, kimchi-related festivals and kimchi sharing events have been held all over the country. As such, kimjang has become an important annual event in the lives of Koreans. After its invention, kimchi never stopped evolving just to get tastier. Thanks to its tasty evolution from generation to generation, the whole world is now in love with kimchi. Kimjang and kimchi are both Korea’s representative cultural tradition and the world-acknowledged intangible cultural property. Kimjang stands for Korea’s history, culture, and soul. Therefore, we must proudly preserve this invaluable cultural tradition for subsequent generations to enjoy.