Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kimjang (김장) Culture

As I mentioned in my last post, today I am filming for Arirang TV's segment, "Today's Blog". It's been a stressful day, but it's given me the opportunity to do something I've never had the opportunity to do. Kimjang. Kimjang is the kimchi making just before the winter season. Koreans make huge quantities to last through the winter. 

The boyfriend and I attended a kimjang event at the Gangdongguchong (Gangdong District Office) and I started out making kimchi. It's harder than it looks on tv. We started with pre-preserved cabbages. Then you need to be sure to get the right proportions of seasoning on the right parts of the leaves. The thickest parts of the leaves need a lot of seasoning, but the thin parts of the leaf need much less. Then it needs to be properly wrapped as you can see with in the piles of cabbage in front of the boyfriend.

Then the interviewing started. I was so nervous and messed up so many times, but they were kind enough and kept encouraging me. On top of it all, I've been really sick the past two weeks fortunately, I never coughed while on camera. 

Being on camera is really uncomfortable. When doing speeches in school, my teachers always criticized me for moving my hands around too much while speaking. I tried my best not do do that, but I never knew where to put my hands then. It didn't help either that my script was completely in Korean and they expected me to translate it. That serves me right for trying to look smart and emailing them in Korean. People assume that if you can say simple things well, then you must be able to read and speak at a high level. It's not the case, though. So, I spent half my time trying to translate the script to English with the boyfriend. Then, trying to remember all that stuff that I wrote down and make it sound natural. 

At this event, there were so many people working hard to make kimchi. This event was to make kimchi to deliver to neighbors in need. It was really nice to see so many people working to help those less fortunate.

Before it was time to deliver the kimchi, it was lunch time. The event hosts prepared fresh tofu, oysters, makkoli and some of the kimchi that we made ourselves for lunch. It was quite good, but I think between making kimchi  and smelling kimchi and eating kimchi I'm about kimchi-ed out for the next week or so.

Finally, it was time to deliver the kimchi we made. I was allowed to visit one of the homes to which the kimchi was delivered. A very kind gentleman was living in such a tiny apartment. I didn't think it was possible that people could still be living in such poor conditions. No bed, no windows, tiny fridge, no kitchen. The man delivering the kimchi reminded the man to be sure to eat good meals, not just cheap ramen. But, really, living in such conditions cooking much of anything must be difficult...

Then we moved on to a cafe where we got some cake and drinks and they filmed me blogging..

Here I was also interviewed more about my thoughts about kimchi, plus more about the kimjang process.

Next, we were off to 가락시장 to get some shots of the huge quantities of cabbage around Korea at kimjang time. Garak market is not your run of the mill market in Seoul. It's a huge wholesale market where buyers come in and buy produce by auction. Here, we went to one entire facility that was filled almost entirely of nothing but Chinese cabbage (배추). I  have seen plenty of people with shopping carts full of cabbage for kimjang, but seeing truck after truck piled high with nothing but cabbage was a bit overwhelming.

Filming here was harder than we'd hoped. We thought we could come in time for the auction, but because of a miscommunication we were there 4 hours too early. They asked me if I wanted to come back for the auction, and while it was tempting, it was also incredibly cold. So we just filmed then and got out as fast as we could. Filming in a place like this which is so full of action is difficult. We kept having to stop because people would drive by or people would walk too close to the camera.

Finally, the whole exhausting process was over. I decided I'll never be a TV personality. Too much stress. I never did well in drama classes in elementary school either. But it was definitely a fun experience and I was happy to get to make kimchi, since it may well be the first and last time I ever get to make it. I have a lot of interesting photos that I took during the filming process but as they asked me not to post those, I should respect their requests. I hope to have the video posted up here ASAP. Maybe in 2-3 weeks it should be airing on Arirang TV nationally and worldwide. I hear that it is played up to 10 times a day for maybe a week. I wonder if my blog traffic will increase because of it too?

Here are some past episodes of Today's Blog:



  1. I'm European and preparing for a visit to Seoul next spring. Of course I already heard about kimchi as national dish, so I consider your post as very informative and well documented by photos.

  2. I guess u will not want to go with me to eat Kimchi....will you? hehe ;)
    see you soon!!

  3. Don't worry, you can have all the kimchi you want from my refrigerator...