The Korea Herald


Campaign launched to separate classification of insam from ginseng

By Lee Jung-joo

Published : July 18, 2023 - 19:23

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Goryeo insam (123rf) Goryeo insam (123rf)

Two Korean organizations, the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea and Geumsan Ginseng and Herb Development Agency, initiated a petition on Tuesday calling for the English name of the plant "insam" to be distinct from the all-encompassing term "ginseng." They argue the broad categorization neglects the distinct cultivation, variety and health benefits of insam.

According to the official guidelines for translating and notating public Korean terms into English by South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, "samgyejuk," a Korean porridge dish containing chicken, rice and insam, is referred to as chicken and ginseng porridge. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international food standards organization, also categorizes insam as ginseng.

VANK noted that while Korean names are used for dishes such as kimchi, tteokbokki and gimbap, insam is referred to as ginseng, similarly to root plants from other countries. "Governmental organizations using the term 'ginseng' could result in a lack of recognition of the excellence and quality of our insam," said Park Ki-tae, founder of VANK.

The two organizations are also advocating for insam to be listed in English dictionaries separately from the currently registered term "ginseng." Although "ginseng" is commonly listed in English dictionaries such as the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries and Collins English Dictionary, none includes an entry for "insam."

The definition of The definition of "insam" is not registered with Collins English Dictionary. (Collins)

The term "ginseng" was first introduced when South Korea's "Goryeo insam" was exported to China. China subsequently exported Goryeo insam to the West, referring to it as "ginseng," from the Chinese pronunciation of the root plant.

In 1843, a Russian scientist first registered the scientific name of insam as “Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer,” which fixed the term ginseng to represent all root plants like insam in English.

The petition initiated by VANK and the Geumsan Ginseng and Herb Development Agency can be found on Woollim and Bridge Asia.

VANK and Geumsan Ginseng and Herb Development Agency's petition on Woollim (left) and Bridge Asia (VANK) VANK and Geumsan Ginseng and Herb Development Agency's petition on Woollim (left) and Bridge Asia (VANK)