* Date : 2015-11-18
Korean Diaspora's Dining Table in Hawaii
Hawaii is known as a melting pot.
Just like a melting pot in which various ingredients mix together, Hawaii boasts a diverse array of cultures, ancient and new.
Choi Jae-won is a 2nd generation Korean American who works as a French food chef in Hawaii. He came to Hawaii when he was 10 years old, and he thought that recent Korean food fever in Hawaii was caused by the popularity of K-dramas and K-pop. He's a chef, but he doesn't know much about Korean cuisine.
So this time, he sets out to retrace Korean food's history in Hawaii.
And the story begins with picture brides.
In 1903, the fate of the Korean Empire was hanging by a thread from power struggles. Meanwhile, Hawaii's sugar cane plantations were having their own problems with Japanese laborers' ongoing strikes for higher wage. Hawaii had to bring substitute laborers, and Korean men became the solution. They became Korea's first official generation of emigrants.
However, a problem surfaced. There were no women Korean men could marry in Hawaii. This led to the arrival of picture brides in 1910. Marriages were arranged with just a photo of each other, and brides were just around the age of 20 when they arrived in Hawaii. It was only after their arrival that the picture brides found out that their soon-to-be husbands were up to 30 years older. Men only had pictures of themselves when they first arrived in Hawaii, so they wound up lying about their age.
Most of the picture brides were elites. They operated a restaurant for the laborers and found ways to survive. That was the beginning of Korean food history in Hawaii. Picture brides who came to Hawaii had experienced Japan's invasion of Korea. When the March 1st Movement broke out in 1919, picture brides began selling homemade kimchi to raise an independence fund. Korean foods like kimchi were popular among immigrant laborers. Many 2nd generation children grew up eating their kimchi and Korean food. As a result, Hawaii became the first place in the world to set up a kimchi factory.
The history of Hawaii's Korean food began in the hands of picture brides.They sold kimchi to support their homeland's independence movements.
Sugar cane plantations disappeared and picture brides were forgotten, but the food that the 2nd generation Korean Americans ate while their parents worked on the plantations is giving rise to a melting pot of food cultures.