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Tradition of making kimchi makes it on UNESCO cultural heritage list

Updated: 2013-12-05 PM 8:40:34 (KST)
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We begin with some welcome news for the nation
Kimjang the Korean tradition of making and sharing kimchi, made UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list this Thursday, Korea time.
For more details on how the decision came about and what this means for the country, we connect live on the phone to Professor Bak Sang-mee from Azerbaijan.
She's a member of the World Heritage Section of the Cultural Heritage Committee and she took part at the 8th annual UNESCO World Heritage Congress
Professor Bak, thanks for joining us and congratulations..

First off, tell us what the atmosphere there was like at the moment the decision was made, and what does it mean to be on this UNESCO list?

What was it about "kimjang" that impressed the UN cultural body?

What kind of impact do we expect from today's decision, both at home and abroad?

Thank you, Professor Bak.
That was Bak Sang-mee, member of the Intangible World Heritage Section of the Cultural Heritage Committee live from Azerbaijan.

So, now we're joined by our cultural correspondent Park Ji-won. Ji-won so it's not kimchi, but the making and sharing of kimchi that has made on to the list.

Yes, Sean. This isn't just about Korea's signature food kimchi, it's about the culture of making kimchi and sharing it.
So, the exact title used by the Korean government when it applied for this distinction was "Kimjang: Making and Sharing Kimchi."
For more on this, our Shin Se-min has this report.
Let's take a look.

The First Lady of the United States makes it, Health magazine selected it as the world's healthiest food, and even doctors recommend it for its health effects.
It's kimchi, and it's been a part of Korean history for over a thousand years.
Every year at about this time, from the end of November until the middle of December, Koreans make the fermented side dish with their family or in groups, a process that's called kimjang.
It takes that many people because kimchi is usually made in large quantities, enough to provide nutrition throughout the cold, winter months.

"The culture surrounding kimchi began as people in the past started making the dish in large groups, and shared the product afterward. Nowadays, people in communities bond by doing the same and promoting the act as a sharing culture."

In light of the season, the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration and the agriculture ministry is hosting a two-day event that runs through Friday on the culture of kimchi.
A ceremony highlighting how people in the past would offer the dish to the king is taking center stage, while different types of kimchi from eight different provinces are available to sample.
A number of foreign ambassadors to Korea are also participating, and even got in on the act of making their own kimchi.

"And attendees to the festival have another reason to celebrate the Korean staple food as Kimjang has made it onto UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Shin Se-min, Arirang News."

So, Jiwon, kimjang is not the first food culture item to make it on the UNESCO list. What others are there?

Until recently, only four food cultures enjoyed the designation status.
They are the gastronomic meals of the French, the Mediterranean diets, traditional Mexican cuisine, and Turkey's ceremonial food tradition.
And Japan's traditional cuisine "washoku" was just added to the UNESCO list this week.

So with kimjang making the list, the total number of Korean intangible cultural assets is now 16?

That's right.
Well, UNESCO has protected cultural heritage for decades, and currently it has nearly a thousand properties listed.
But it was only in 2003 that UNESCO started protecting non-living, intangible elements of culture.
As of now, hundreds of items from dozens of countries have now been registered on the list.
Korea now has 16 designations on the list.
This is the third highest number, following China's 38 representations, and Japan's 22.
Korean items on the list include Korea's traditional songs and rituals to its martial arts.
Others include daemokjang, traditional wooden architecture and ganggangsullae, a traditional group dance.

All right.. Jiwon, thanks for joining us.

Sure, anytime.

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montrealer (Canada) DEC 06, 2013