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Cuisine, Colonialism and Cold War: Food in 20th Century Korea

This Friday’s lecture at SOAS looks like a must-see.

See you all there.

Dr Katarzyna CwiertkaFriday, March 12th, 5pm, room G50 (main building)
Dr. Katarzyna Cwiertka, Leiden University
Cuisine, Colonialism and Cold War: Food in 20th Century Korea

In this talk, I will introduce my forthcoming book Cuisine, Colonialism and Cold War: Food and Eating in Twentieth Century Korea. The key argument states that Japanese colonialism (1910-1945) and Cold War (1950-1990) largely shaped Korean dietary ‘tradition’ as we know it today. It demonstrates that an array of dietary practices by now identified as ‘Korean’ not infrequently have been conceived through colonial encounters or greatly affected by the colonial legacy. It also points out how the militarized reality of Cold War has further determined the trajectory of dietary change on the peninsula, both South and North. The scope of the book extends beyond dietary concerns, owing to the all-embracing and yet very intimate character of food. It may serve as a very effective tool for investigating phenomena, such as colonialism, capitalism, war, modernity and democracy, which influence society and culture simultaneously at many levels, but their full effect is difficult to pinpoint.

The talk is centered around two topics: the restaurant culture of colonial Korea and the post-liberation standardization of the Korean taste through the industrialization of soy sauce production. Both topics vividly reflect the persistent legacy of Japanese colonial rule and the ambiguity of lived colonial experience. While Koreans willingly embraced the colonizer as a trendsetter, the economic survival of café’s, restaurants and department stores was often heavily dependent on the patronage of the colonized Korean public. In the case of industrialization of soy sauce production the situation was entirely different. A typical example of ‘Japanese for Japanese phenomenon’, industrial soy sauce unfolds its impact on the Korean cuisine only after the liberation.

Speaker Bio:
Katarzyna J. Cwiertka is Associate Professor in Japanese History and Material Culture at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Her research to date has utilized food as a window into the modern history of Japan and Korea. Cwiertka is the author of Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power and National Identity (Reaktion Books 2006) and co-editor of Asian Food: The Global and the Local (University of Hawaii Press 2002). Currently, she is putting finishes touches to her forthcoming monograph Cuisine, Colonialism and Cold War: Food in Twentieth Century Korea (Reaktion Books 2010). She also acts as Principal Researcher of the project “Sustaining Total War: Militarization, Economic Mobilization and Social Change in Japan and Korea”, which is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and investigates the role of war in the development of contemporary East Asia.

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

One thought on “Cuisine, Colonialism and Cold War: Food in 20th Century Korea

  1. Key points:

    • They had restaurants in colonial Korea
    • They don’t make soy sauce like they used to (Japanese-style factory-produced soy sauce is nothing like the laboriously home-made Korean version)

    For those interested in Korean food culture, Michael Pettid’s book is a must-read. Dr. Cwiertka’s upcoming book will focus in more detail on the 20th century.

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