Globalization has opened a lot of doors and made many amazing things possible (like our trip!) but the rate of change is definitely increasing and Westernization is noticeable throughout Korea. Jon and I are finding ourselves feeling very grateful that we are traveling now and not later in life. There are many cultural practices that have an unsure place in the future.
Many of the foods here in Korea are made with pickled or fermented vegetables and there are ancient traditions associated with preparing and storing these foods. As we stay with host families crossing different generations, we see that the older generations continue the traditions of making their own gochujang (red pepper paste), kimchi, or other banchan.
The younger generations often do not feel the need to continue these traditions because these foods can be found readily in the market or store. Furthermore, the global market ensures fresh food year round now which was not available in the past. We see the traditional earthen jars used for aging gochujang and kimchi sitting empty at many homes we pass.
We hear that the fall kimchi-making event used to a big familial affair, but now there just aren’t enough people to make it worth while. There are smaller family sizes, spread out geographically, and without the sense of necessity that once existed. So when we have the opportunity to eat grandma’s homemade kimchi, mom’s jangajji (pickled garlic), dotorimuk (acorn jelly),
or the family’s home-fermented wild grape wine, we don’t take these opportunities lightly. We are incredibly grateful to experience these traditions while we can and we owe these experiences to the generosity of all of our wonderful couch surfing hosts.