UNESCO lists kimchi-making as heritage

December 5, 2013

By Kim Tong-hyung

Korea’s culture of collectively making kimchi, the country’s staple side-dish of fermented cabbage, or kimjang, has been added to the United Nation’s cultural heritage list, the government said Thursday.

Other new additions announced at the UNESCO meeting in Azerbaijan included ”washoku,’’ or Japanese traditional food culture, and the Chinese abacus. Japan is the only the second nation after France to have its national cuisine designated heritage status.

The centuries-old family tradition of making and sharing kimchi makes the 16th Korean cultural element on UNESCO’s list, joining the drum-backed song genre of ”pansori,’’ annual memorial services at the Jongmyo Shrine for deceased Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) monarchs and the traditional Dano Festival in the seaside town of Gangneung. The government proposed ”Kimjang; Making and Sharing Kimchi’’ for UNESCO registration in March last year.

The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) expressed hopes that the UNESCO registration of kimjang will help improve international awareness of Korea’s kimchi-related culture.

”The making and sharing of kimchi is not a culture that has been kept alive by a small number of practitioners. It is a culture that continues to be shared by virtually all Koreans and is a significant part of their lives,’’ said Park Hei-woong, a CHA official.

”UNESCO has evaluated the culture of making kimchi as a part of maintaining the cohesiveness of Korean communities and also the food as being an essential part in Koreans’ cultural identity. We hope that UNESCO’s decision will also influence the Korean people’s perception of the significance of our culture.’’

The decision to grant heritage status to the making of kimchi was widely anticipated after UNESCO’s Subsidiary Body, which evaluates new candidates for UNESCO registration, issued a recommendation for it in October.