Are the Japanese Stealing Kimchi?

Dear Korean,

Is it true that Japan is making a Japanese version of the Korean Kimchi? I heard that the Japanese are calling it Kimuchi and hailing it as part of their own culture.


The Korean previously explained that Korean nationalism drives many Koreans to truly stupid lows, like having a testosterone-fueled rage over women's figure skating or brutally killing pheasants with a hammer. But among the many different instances of nationalism-induced stupidity, this "kimuchi" thing might be the stupidest. Allow the Korean to state this as clearly as possible: this is a non-issue over which only the dumb people are worked up.

Yes, the Japanese are making kimchi. They call it "kimuchi", in an attempt to pronounce "kimchi" in Japanese. And kimuchi tastes different from kimchi, because the Japanese make it in their style. This is what happens the world over -- food travels, changes, and gets a different name.

Unfortunately, one can be a nationalist, or one can be a nationalist and a dumbass. And when the nationalists who are also dumbasses see the Japanese making kimuchi and let their paranoia run wild -- "Oh noes, the Japs are stealing our food! Now I'm going to have to write hateful shitpile on the Internet!" Never mind the fact that there is absolutely none, no indication that the Japanese intended to steal "kimchi" and claim it to be their own.

Recall that the Korean is writing this as an insane Korean food purist. He thinks that 95 percent of "Korean restaurants" in the U.S. do not deserve the descriptor "Korean." He thinks most of Seoul's restaurants serve cattle feed. But not even the Korean is insane enough to think that the Japanese are somehow trying to steal kimchi. The Korean might not recognize the Japanese imitation of spicy pickled vegetables as kimchi, but he is not delusional enough to think that the Japanese are trying to steal something.

(Aside: the Korean did lose his shit when a fancy restaurant near Seattle served "prawn kimchee salad" that had nothing that even remotely connected the dish to being a kimchi -- no salted vegetables, no fermentation, no spice, just prawn and arugula salad with some kind dressing. It was delicious, but it was not kimchi.)

The bad thing about dumbasses is that if there are enough of them, people who should know better cater to them. (See, e.g., extended warranty programs, Michelle Bachmann.) In this instance, the prime culprit is the newspapers that are quite content to manufacture a controversy. So we have articles like this -- in Korea's most-read newspaper, no less -- that try to play the same game with makkeolli (Korean rice wine) one more time by pointing out that Japanese breweries are now producing their own version of makkeolli, named "matkoli." (Again, the Japanese pronunciation of the same word and not renaming.) The article is a bald appeal to stupidity: "The Japs are trying to steal makkeolli by pronouncing it 'matkolli'! Just like they tried to steal kimchi with kimuchi! To arms, Korean people!"

But the more interesting part of the article is the comments, which are overwhelmingly critical of the article for being "narrow-minded", "alarmist", "filled with inferiority and victim complex," etc. Elsewhere in Korean Internet, the reaction is about the same. Dumbass nationalism in Korea may create a lot of sound and fury, but at the end of the day, most Koreans recognize them to be stupid.

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