Hansik versus Choseon Ryori: National Food as Representation of National Identity in South and North Korea

Guest lecture by Maria Osetrova, Senior researcher, Center for Korean Studies, Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Science (Moscow)


For anthropologists and culture specialists food is not just a topic worthy of inquiry in its own right, it can be studied as a universal medium that illuminates a wide range of other cultural practices and processes. Though the primary purpose of food is nutrition it also has cultural dimension by which people choose what to eat not only by taste or health benefits, but by cultural, religious, historic, economic, environmental and social reasons too. Besides this food is a useful window through which to study the questions of national identity and expressions of nationalism.   

In this regard Korea presents an interesting case to research as there are two states which both claim to possess the authentic Korean national culture including food culture as well. Today the name for the national culinary tradition in the South is hansik, while the North calls it choseon ryori. And this is far from being the only difference. The lecturer will examine two ways of understanding Korean national food culture and its official representations in the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. By analyzing the differences and similarities in the official national food discourse the lecturer will make conclusion about the development of the national identity policy of two Korean states and its interrelation with nationalist sentiments.

In short, the lecturer will talk not so much about what Koreans eat but rather explain what they think and feel about what they eat and that is how the relations between Korean national food, national identity and nationalism in contemporary Korea will be explored.