Korean culture is comprised of a multitude of societal changes that have amounted and transformed throughout the years.
Beginning five thousand years ago Korea has slowly evolved into a cultural haven. Music, dance, painting, food, fashion, arts, games, karate, family life, theater, religion and beliefs are Just a few components that make up modern day Korean culture. Korean cuisine is one of the most unifying of all of these cultural factors.The food in Korea is one of the defining elements of Koreans culture because of its historical background, environmental affinities, long lasting reative techniques and recipes, and use in traditional ceremonies and festivals.
Modern day cuisine in Korea is quite progressed from what it once started as, but many of the same traditional dishes still play a major role in Korean diets. As Korea has evolved and gone through intense alterations, so has the food in this country.Major political changes have affected the eating palates of Koreans by changing both the amount of food available and the type of food that is consumed, yet traditional Korean cuisine has managed to survive into the modern day. The origin of Korean uisine can be traced back to early myths and legends that have been passed down, generation to generation, throughout the years.
Looking at the historical nature of Korea can also be helpful in showing the foundation of Korean food. The Three Kingdoms Period in Korea lasted from 57 BCE to 668 CE.The first kingdom was Goguryeo, which is located in the northern part of the Korean peninsula, known today as Manchuria. The second kingdom, BaekJe, was located in the southwestern part of the peninsula and the third kingdom, Silla, was located in the southeast corner of the eninsula.
Each of the three kingdoms had unique cuisines that were specific to the area they were in because of the varying climates of each region. During the Three Kingdoms Period, fermented food began to be seen and played a huge role in Korean's everyday lives.During this period there are no actual records of the food that was prepared or cooked and therefore no writings of seasonings or ingredients that were used to prepare their meals. The only record of any Korean food during this period was the mention of Kimchi, the national Korean traditional dish. Following the Three Kingdoms Period was the Unified Silla period, which began in 668CE and continued until 935CE. Silla unified most of the southern region of Korea, while migrants from Goguryeo unified the north, eventually renaming the area Balhae.
Korea was ultimately unified under the Goryeo dynasty.During this time of unification is when the spread of the Korea peninsula to the Western World began. In the 13th century, after the Goryeo Dynasty was out of power, the Joseon Period commenced. Around 1429, under King SeJong, the publication of books on agriculture and farming techniques began. Because of these early informative novels, the second half of the Joseon period proved to be quite different from the first half.
Silhak scholars were more inclined to place importance on the agricultural industry, which was the first time this was seen in Korea.Because of this, government began to play a major role in coming up with new agricultural systems and techniques to help improve farming as well as other aspects of life. The first step that the government took in trying to help the peasantry was reduced taxation, which in turn prompted increased trade with China, Japan, Europe, and the Philippines. New crops began to show up in Korea because of the government's aid to commoner's agricultural needs. Some of these crops included corn, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, tomatoes, peanuts, and squash.One of the most important items introduced to Korea during this time period was Chinese cabbage, also known as brassica.
Chinese cabbage was important because it would become the main ingredient in kimchi. As the Joseon period ended, the country was showing signs of massive improvement as well as signs of continuing trade with the Western World, China, Japan, the United States, Britain, and France. The exchange of food boded well for all countries involved. New cultural foods were being shown to Korea that they had never before seen.
Not only did trade with other countries introduce a variety of new foods to Korea, Western missionaries traveling through Korea also proved to be a huge component in cultural cuisine exchange. After the fall of Joseon Dynasty, there was a thirty-six year period of colonization by the government of Japan. With Japan in power, the adoption of many Japanese cultural ways, including agricultural techniques and systems, was inevitable. Some of these new techniques involved combining smaller farms into large-scale farms to help yield a larger amount of crops, which would be exported to Japan.The problem was that although crop production, especially rice production, was increasing most of these crops were being shipped out of the country. To make up for this loss, Koreans also began to increase the production of grains such as millet and barley for Korean use only.
Under Japanese control, the way meals were eaten and served also changed Korean's lives. Koreans began to eat only two meals a day during cold season and three a day during warm seasons. The meals became very repetitive with little variation on a day-to-day basis.The lower levels of society would share a single bowl of white rice and the rest of their meals were composed of lower quality grains. After Japan was defeated in World War II the colonial period in Korea ended as well. After the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Cold War and the Korean War eventually separated Korea into North and South Korea.
Because of this separation food became even scarcer than it previously had been during the Japanese period. Under President Park Chung Hee, industrialization was brought to Korea.Agricultural techniques completely changed with the advent of new machinery and other industrial concepts. Agriculture production was increased through the use of new equipment and commercialized fertilizers and nutrients. Thus in turn, the overall quality of all Korean food increased, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables.
Korean meals are comprised of rice, their staple ingredient, soup, and a variety of side dishes. Usually included in these side dishes is the use of vegetables, pork, poultry, and, more often than not, seafood.