North Korean Perceptions toward Traditional Dietary Customs and Policies for Their Protection*

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S/N Korean Humanities Vol.9 No.2 pp.17-45 ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)

Youngsun Jeon
Konkuk University

Received December 30, 2021; Revised version received January 30, 2022; Accepted February 10, 2022


This study is to compare perceptions of the two Koreas’ traditional dietary cultures and the policies enacted to protect these cultures with a view to predicting the potential collisions that could occur during the process of unification and to presenting a direction for integrating the dietary cultures of the two countries. The dietary cultures of the two Koreas have been perceived as conspicuous joint cultural assets formed over 5,000 years. North Korea has made efforts to preserve the traditions of Korean national culture. After the Kim Jongun regime gained power in 2012, the country took efforts to unearth its intangible heritage, whose significant portion was related to dietary culture. North Korea has designated four elements of dietary culture as national intangible cultural heritage: (1) daily food available nationwide; (2) seasonal food related to holidays; (3) traditional alcohol; and (4) local food. North Korea has held various cooking competitions and has made efforts to unearth elements of traditional Korean dietary culture with a view to promote this culture. There are very similar aspects to how the two Koreas make value judgments and promote industrialization policies regarding cultural heritage that is related to traditional dietary culture. There are policy-related similarities in regards to the positive evaluations that the two Koreas make toward dietary culture, along with the proactive efforts to unearth, along with national efforts to preserve, that culture. That being said, there are differences in the specific elements of culture that the two Koreas aim to inherit and preserve. There are differences in the systems of the two Koreas in terms of the objectives and orientation of unearthing traditional culture and the criteria used to evaluate its value. These differences suggest there will be clashes between the two Koreas in living culture (saenghwal munhwa). During exchanges between the two Koreas, there is an imperative to establish human and material infrastructures to allow the active exchange of information, joint investigations, academic exchanges, and communication in regards to living culture, including dietary culture.

Key Words : North Korea, dietary culture, Korean cooking, Korean food, K-food, intangible cultural heritage, traditional culture

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