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89. A Lot on Korea’s Plate: Food and Collective Identity in the Korean World

Fri, March 17, 12:45 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Mezzanine, Norfolk

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


Eating is not only a biological matter of feeding oneself; it is a cultural practice pertaining to sociocultural drives. Food therefore takes on several aspects such as the incorporation of practices and the food choices, which underlie the link between diet and identity, social organization, religion, symbolic dimension… South Korea (ROK) has thus recently used its national cuisine as a tool of soft power in the wake of the second Korean Wave. K-food dishes such as kimch’i, pibimpap and ttŏkpokki have become heralds of South Korea’s uniqueness and desirability on world stage. But in this situation of economic and cultural monopoly, the “other Koreas” tend to have been overshadowed. North Korea (DPRK) as well as Korean diasporas in China, Japan, Central Asia, Americas or Europe have their own local cuisine and also their own ways to use food as a collective identity shifter. For example, Koryŏ Saram or ethnic Koreans of Central Asia, who, for the majority of them, don’t even speak Korean, have kept their national cuisine as a decisive collective marker.
What is exactly the function of national food in this Korean world defined by diasporic, divisive and migratory situations? Is food helping, in such a transnational context, to define local identities trying to resist the South-Koreanization of the Korean world? Or do all these practices construct a meta-national Korean cuisine negotiating with the foreign acculturation processes as well as constructing a common “place” for this diverse Korean world to meet and to identify with?

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