South Koreans upset after China claims traditional kimchi as its own

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(Screengrab from YouTube: Li Ziqi)

Chinese social media star and country-life vlogger Li Ziqi, who has gained a fan base for her silent and soothing rural cooking videos, sparked an uproar this week due to an allegedly preposterous claim: that kimchi, a traditional South Korean dish, is actually Chinese.

The latest video published by Li Ziqi’s YouTube channel, titled “The life of white radish,” shows her going through the process of making kimchi in the days leading to the Lunar New Year. In the caption, she posts the hashtags #ChineseCuisine and #ChineseFood.

(Screengrab from YouTube: Li Ziqi)

In the video’s comments section, many South Korean citizens asserted that kimchi is a native Korean dish and accuses Li, and China at large, for “stealing the culture” and taking South Korean traditions as their own. This caused alternating allegations and mockery from both South Koreans and Chinese social media users.

Some of the comments, however, delved deep into each nation’s history to prove their point. They cited how China, having developed ahead of other East Asian nations, had influence on various aspects of other societies’ culture, including food. According to these comments, the development of certain cuisines aren’t exclusive to just one society but are rather dynamic and can take cues from other cultures, elevating the food altogether.

They also defended Li by saying that she posts the hashtags whether or not the dish she prepares is native to her home province of Sichuan.

Though intense, the debate is rarely new. Last December, the same conflict commenced when China led the application of pao cai, or pickled cabbage, to the International Organization for Standardization. That the dish is largely similar to the kimchi caused the same discord over the dish’s origin to erupt among South Korean and Chinese citizens.

Li, who boasts over 14 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 3 million followers across Facebook and Instagram, has yet to issue any statement or remark on the matter. 

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