Photos | Of Kims and Kimchi: A food that unites North and South Korea

Updated On Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

After more than 70 years of total separation without even post or telephone links, North and South Korea today are far more different than were East and West Germany when the Berlin Wall fell. But while authorities on both sides may not agree on unification plans, love for kimchi, the fermented cabbage side-dish ubiquitous to every Korean meal is doing its bit to unify Korean tastebuds.

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Kimchi is prepared during a mass winter kimchi-making event in Seoul, South Korea. North and South Korea differ radically, one ruled by the same family for decades and the other a freewheeling democracy and thrusting economy, but fermented cabbage unites them. Kimchi, originally a means of preservation during winter can vary from mild to fiery, but has been a staple of virtually every meal on the now-divided peninsula for centuries. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

Kimchi is prepared during a mass winter kimchi-making event in Seoul, South Korea. North and South Korea differ radically, one ruled by the same family for decades and the other a freewheeling democracy and thrusting economy, but fermented cabbage unites them. Kimchi, originally a means of preservation during winter can vary from mild to fiery, but has been a staple of virtually every meal on the now-divided peninsula for centuries. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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Cabbage, radish, red spicy paste and rubber gloves –all kimchi essentials. In the North, where UN statistics say around 40% of people are chronically undernourished, it flavours the rice that is the dietary mainstay. In the South, it accompanies cuisines from American to Vietnamese. But while authorities on both sides proclaim their commitment to reunification, more than 70 years of total separation has led the two Koreas and also their kimchi on divergent paths. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

Cabbage, radish, red spicy paste and rubber gloves –all kimchi essentials. In the North, where UN statistics say around 40% of people are chronically undernourished, it flavours the rice that is the dietary mainstay. In the South, it accompanies cuisines from American to Vietnamese. But while authorities on both sides proclaim their commitment to reunification, more than 70 years of total separation has led the two Koreas and also their kimchi on divergent paths. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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Song Song-Hui (C) sings in her apartment during a family gathering in Pyongyang, North Korea. They were listed separately on UNESCO’s roster of the world’s intangible cultural heritage, with the South’s inscribed first, but in her central Pyongyang flat, Song Song-Hui offers a patriotic defence of the North’s variety. “I have never tried kimchi from the south but I think the Pyongyang kimchi is much better than the kimchi from the south,” she said. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

Song Song-Hui (C) sings in her apartment during a family gathering in Pyongyang, North Korea. They were listed separately on UNESCO’s roster of the world’s intangible cultural heritage, with the South’s inscribed first, but in her central Pyongyang flat, Song Song-Hui offers a patriotic defence of the North’s variety. “I have never tried kimchi from the south but I think the Pyongyang kimchi is much better than the kimchi from the south,” she said. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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Kimchi has always had regional variations -- it is saltier and stronger in the South, says Park Chae-Rin, a researcher at the World Institute of Kimchi (WIKIM) in Seoul, as the warmer climate made storage harder. “North Korean kimchi is similar to the kimchi eaten before modernisation when there was no refrigerator and a lack of ingredients,” she said. “In South Korea, that type of kimchi has completely disappeared.” (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

Kimchi has always had regional variations -- it is saltier and stronger in the South, says Park Chae-Rin, a researcher at the World Institute of Kimchi (WIKIM) in Seoul, as the warmer climate made storage harder. “North Korean kimchi is similar to the kimchi eaten before modernisation when there was no refrigerator and a lack of ingredients,” she said. “In South Korea, that type of kimchi has completely disappeared.” (Ed Jones / AFP)

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In Song’s flat, her cousin Yu Yang Hui (C) mixes sliced radish, garlic, pieces of pollack, and a red pepper paste, before spreading the concoction between cabbage leaves brined for 24 hours. Technological advances in the South such as specialised kimchi fridges and greater access to spices and condiments have made the North-South flavour gap more pronounced. Nevertheless, the kimjang or kimchi-making season remains a family tradition on both sides. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

In Song’s flat, her cousin Yu Yang Hui (C) mixes sliced radish, garlic, pieces of pollack, and a red pepper paste, before spreading the concoction between cabbage leaves brined for 24 hours. Technological advances in the South such as specialised kimchi fridges and greater access to spices and condiments have made the North-South flavour gap more pronounced. Nevertheless, the kimjang or kimchi-making season remains a family tradition on both sides. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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Packed into plastic buckets to ferment on the balcony -- in rural tradition the containers are buried -- it would be ready to eat in a week, and at its best in a month. “Korean people can eat rice only with kimchi,” said Yu, adding a family of four could get through a kilo a day. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

Packed into plastic buckets to ferment on the balcony -- in rural tradition the containers are buried -- it would be ready to eat in a week, and at its best in a month. “Korean people can eat rice only with kimchi,” said Yu, adding a family of four could get through a kilo a day. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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A woman tastes kimchi during a kimchi-making festival in Seoul. Kimchi is not the only cultural component that divides the Koreas. Seven decades of political and economic division have seen linguistic divisions emerge --North and South spell and pronounce some Korean words differently and especially loanwords from English, so much so that North Korean defectors are given language lessons as part of their assimilation course. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

A woman tastes kimchi during a kimchi-making festival in Seoul. Kimchi is not the only cultural component that divides the Koreas. Seven decades of political and economic division have seen linguistic divisions emerge --North and South spell and pronounce some Korean words differently and especially loanwords from English, so much so that North Korean defectors are given language lessons as part of their assimilation course. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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A South Korean woman sneaks in a kimchi sample. As far as kimchi goes, WIKIM’s Park believes debates on flavour and quality are as much about memory as taste. “The kimchi that tastes most like their mother’s kimchi, the one that they grew up eating, is what people find most delicious.” “Kimchi carries a kind of common sentimental element that ties together all Koreans,” she added. (Ed Jones / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 22, 2017 02:51 PM IST

A South Korean woman sneaks in a kimchi sample. As far as kimchi goes, WIKIM’s Park believes debates on flavour and quality are as much about memory as taste. “The kimchi that tastes most like their mother’s kimchi, the one that they grew up eating, is what people find most delicious.” “Kimchi carries a kind of common sentimental element that ties together all Koreans,” she added. (Ed Jones / AFP)

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