Kimchi Wars: The Fight Over Fermented Vegetables

The BBC reported that the global industry standards body, ISO has posted new regulations for the making of pao cai, a type of Chinese salted fermented vegetables, but in its efforts to win an international certificate for pao cai, China has entered into a war of words with South Korea, who have accused the Chinese of theft.

South Korean food lovers have accused China of trying to steal kimchi, the staple Korean cuisine made of pickled cabbage after the Chinese state-run Global Times reported the certificate as ‘an international standard for the Kimchi industry led by China’.

"I read a media story that China now says Kimchi is theirs, and that they are making international standard for it, It's absurd. I'm worried that they might steal Hanbok and other cultural contents, not just Kimchi," said Kim Seol-ha, a 28-year old in Seoul.

Another commentator online wrote, what a thief stealing our culture!

The ISO, however, has made a point of saying the certification did not apply to kimchi.

South Korea's agricultural ministry has released a statement saying international standards for kimchi were agreed by the United Nations in 2001.

"It is inappropriate to report [the pao cai certification] without differentiating kimchi from pao cai of China's Sichuan," it said.

On the other hand, Chinese commenters were quick to point out that most of the kimchi consumed in South Korea was manufactured in China.

With Kiwi foodies all too aware of neighbouring countries trying to steal homegrown favourites (the great pavlova wars), we can empathise with South Korea and their desire to keep their traditions their own.