By Jane Han
Rising vegetable costs and a change in lifestyle have pushed Koreans further away from making their staple dish, kimchi, at home, but a new poll shows that people are turning back to the task.
Online shopping site Gmarket asked 6,191 men and women whether they are planning to make kimchi at home this winter, and more than 60 percent said they are. This is up 11 percent from a similar survey last year.
A majority of respondents said they plan to make about 100,000 to 200,000 won's worth of kimchi this year, according to the poll, unlike last year when most people preferred to make less than 100,000 won's worth.
Considering the costs of essential ingredients for kimchi haven't changed much, Gmarket officials say households are simply pickling more vegetables than before.
"We're seeing a sharp rise in the number of consumers who want to make their own yearlong supply of the dish," said Baek Min-seok, a food merchandiser at Gmarket. "This is a big change in trend compared to the pattern we've been witnessing in recent years."
Families once pickled tens of jars of kimchi to share with neighbors and relatives, but today's homemakers have been turning away from the time-honored tradition, saying ready-made kimchi products are cheaper and tastier.
A recent poll showed that more than 65 percent of Korean housewives don't know how to make kimchi, indicating a lifestyle change among the younger generation.
So why the sudden move toward tradition again?
The Gmarket poll shows that the widespread swine flu epidemic is the biggest reason behind people's newfound interest in the fermented vegetable dish.
"Fermented food is believed to help strengthen the human immune system, so kimchi is emerging as a good solution among health-conscious individuals," says Baek.
More than 55 percent of the respondents said they're opting to take on the laborious task as they cannot trust food manufacturers' safety standards. A few years ago, parasite eggs were found in kimchi imported from China.
Such food scares are encouraging people to make their own, but there are still options for those who don't want to deal with the entire kimchi-making process.
Kimchi manufacturers are introducing partially completed products, such as pickled cabbage, to enable consumers to finish the remaining process at home.