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Korea Celebrates Kimchi-Making Tradition

South Koreans and tourists make kimchi to donate to needy neighbors during the Seoul kimchi festival in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

South Koreans and tourists make kimchi to donate to needy neighbors during the Seoul kimchi festival in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

Some people will start to sweat just hearing the word "kimchi."

Kimchi is made from a vegetable called cabbage. And it is an important part of Korean culture.

So important that the city of Seoul held a festival this month celebrating the traditional Korean dish.

The kimchi festival is part of city officials' efforts to keep older traditions alive in country. These traditions are no longer very popular.

Technology and the modern world make the complex process of traditional kimchi-making unnecessary. The name of this process is kimjang.

Thousands of people attended the event, called the Kimjang Festival. Organizers made the open public area near Seoul's main city government building into kimchi production lines.

Volunteers mixed almost 50 tons of cabbage with kimchi sauce. The sauce combines hot peppers and specially prepared seafood. Combining the cabbage and sauce creates the spicy sour food.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon joined in the event. Also, Korea traditional dancers and musicians gave the event more of a cultural feeling.

Before modern methods of production and refrigeration, Korean families and communities would come together to make kimchi. Because kimchi is fermented with salt, it is preserved.

Kimchi-making happened after the fall harvest but before the first snow. Traditionally, it was stored in jars buried in the dirt to maintain temperature.

"It is sad that this culture is [disappearing]."said festival organizer Sohn Hyung-chae.

Koreans still eat kimchi nearly every day. Kimchi can be bought in markets year-round. Also, modern life is fast and busy. Few people have time to make large amounts of kimchi the way they did before.

Kimjang is an important part of Korean Culture, though.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, is a special organization that works to protect and share cultures around the world. UNESCO listed kimjang as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This is UNESCO's international list of the most important traditions of human culture.

Many Koreans also see kimchi as a necessary part of their diet.

"We can eat a large amount of food during winter, as we can make [many different] kinds of dishes with kimchi," said festival volunteer Chun Seong-hee.

Foreigners joined in the activities. But, some do not enjoy the Korean national food. Natalia Sukhora is a Russian citizen living in Seoul.

"It's a bit spicy for me because I'm from Russia," she said.

The festival ran for three days. There were demonstrations of different kinds of kimchi. There were also classes to learn how to make special kimchi dishes. On the last day organizers made the open public area into a cabbage garden. The garden had over 5,000 plants and games for children.

Organizations that help poor people will receive much of the kimchi made at the festival. Festival organizers say they will donate most of the 50 tons of kimchi to these organizations.

North Korea is a much poorer nation than South Korea. North Korea will not receive any of the kimchi made at the festival in Seoul. But, organizers hope to create a kimjang festival next year that includes both countries.

This will let the organizers share the traditional food with Koreans in both countries.

I'm Pete Musto.

Brian Padden and Youmi Kim reported and wrote this story for VOA news. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Now it’s your turn. What are the traditional types of food in your country? Are younger generations less interested in cultural traditions? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

cabbagen. a leafy vegetable that has several forms

saucen. a thick liquid that is eaten with or on food to add taste to it

pepper(s) – n. a hollow vegetable that is usually red, green, or yellow and that is eaten raw or cooked

seafoodn. fish and shellfish that live in the ocean and are used for food

spicyadj. tasting of strong spices that cause a burning feeling in your mouth

souradj. having an acid taste

refrigerationn. – the ability to keep something such as food cold to keep it fresh

fermentedadj. gone through a chemical change that results in the production of alcohol

preservedadj. protected from losing freshness

dish(es) – n. food that is prepared in a special way



  • 2.5 lbs. of cabbage
  • Water
  • 5 pieces of garlic
  • 2 daikon radishes
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • Sea salt
  • Ginger
  • Korean red pepper flakes
  • Sugar
  • Dried seaweed
  • Jar


  1. Wash and cut the cabbage into pieces. Put the pieces in a big bowl and cover them with water. Keep the cabbage under water for 3 hours.
  2. Wash the cabbage again in cold water and then dry it.
  3. Combine one teaspoon of sugar, half a sheet of dried seaweed, one tablespoon of salt, four tablespoons of red pepper flakes and one tablespoon of water to make a paste.
  4. Mix the cabbage and the paste
  5. Put the cabbage and paste into a clean jar.
  6. Combine two cups of water and a quarter cup of sea salt.
  7. Fill the rest of the jar with the salt water. Close the jar.
  8. Do not open the jar for at 24 hours.
  9. After opening, keep the jar in the refrigerator.

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