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[Newsmaker] Kimchi making for winter gets recognition

Family members gather to prepare kimchi. (Cultural Heritage Administration)
Family members gather to prepare kimchi. (Cultural Heritage Administration)
Kimjang, the traditional practice of making kimchi before winter, may soon be included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, government officials announced on Wednesday.

Representatives of Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration submitted the recommendation for kimjang, categorized under the title “Kimjang; Making and Sharing Kimchi,” to be added to the UNESCO list.

Kimjang refers to the process of preparing large vats of the spicy, fermented cabbage with a large gathering of family, friends or community members before the start of winter and storing the kimchi vats underground for fermentation. As Korea’s most representative dish, kimchi has had a longstanding cultural history in the country; however, the ancient method of kimjang is a tradition that is slowly fading out in contemporary Korea.

“Around 90 percent of Korean families still make their own kimchi at home, so kimchi making is a huge part of our culture,” said Yena Lee of the Cultural Heritage Administration.

“The reasons why we selected kimjang to nominate for the UNESCO cultural heritage list is because it is a very important part of our culture and we hope that we will be able to continue to keep this precious tradition alive,” Lee explained. “We also believe that having it as part of the UNESCO-listed intangible cultures, will also allow people outside of Korea to know and understand more about our kimchi culture.”

The applications for UNESCO cultural heritage listings are judged and divided into three categories: inscribe, refer and not to inscribe. Those applications that are placed in the “inscribe” category are more often than not adopted by the UNESCO committee as intangible cultural heritages of humanity.

Should “Kimjang; Making and Sharing Kimchi” pass the UNESCO screening process, the submission would be Korea’s 16th listing on the U.N. body’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and join the country’s other intangible cultural heritages including pansori (traditional genre of Korean music); Arirang (old Korean folk song); taekkyeon (a traditional Korean martial art form); and jultagi (tightrope walking).

The UNESCO committee will make its final decision during the upcoming eighth annual UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting, which will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from Dec. 2-7.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)
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