For over 3,000 years, there has been one dish that has accompanied every family’s meal in Korea. Still, from region to region, it has been prepared differently using different ingredients. Therefore, it comes in a wide variety of palates. In addition, in the past, this food served as a staple of people’s nutrition during winter when there wasn’t much to eat. It is fermented and stored, so in Korea many families keep a special refrigerator just for it. Have you figured out what it is yet? Right! It’s Kimchi.
The Way to Koreans' Taste
There are two facts about Kimchi that not even most Koreans would know. First, Kimchi was originally called Jimchae. The word jimchae means to soak vegetables in brine. The word evolved to chimchae, dimchae, and timchae over the years. It finally became kimchi. Second, Kimchi was not originally red. Originally Kimchi was white because it did not include red pepper powder paste. A long time ago in Korea, there were no red peppers, so people soaked the vegetable in brine and vinegar. However, after the Japanese Invasion, red peppers were introduced into Korea, and Kimchi became red and spicy. Let's go to the Museum Kimchikan that we can know more about Kimchi.
Getting to Kimchikan Museum is not difficult but there is no car park, so taking public transportation is more convenient. The easiest way to get there is by subway on Line 1. From Sookmyung Women’s University, walk down to Namyoung Station and hop on the subway train headed in the direction of Jonggak Station. After getting out of the station via Exit 3, just head straight for about 5 minutes on foot. You will come to Kumkang Shoes. Go straight for about 200 meters more along Insa-dong street and then turn left. Likely the first time you are trying to get there, you might have difficulty because the street is crowded and the museum is located in the middle of the main street in Insa-dong.
See, Hear, and Taste Kimchi
The entire building is not part of the museum. Museum Kimchikan is located on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors. The museum is comprised of 12 sections, with floors hosting 4 sections each. In some areas, people can make Kimchi using a digital game without having to get your hands coated in red from the marinade. Also, there is Kimchi store room where all kinds of Kimchi are kept and even there is a place where you can taste-test three different kinds of Kimchi. The museum does have docents, but they are only available four times a day: 11:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00. Also, the group needs to have at least 10 people before the tour will begin. If you are unable to join a docent tour, explanations about the features in the museum are aurally available. In order to borrow the auditory equipment, however, you must leave your social security card at the information desk. It is returned to you after giving back the equipment.
Also, besides its exhibits, Museum Kimchikan offers various Kimchi making programs for all ages and nations. The museum provides every participant with a Hanbok, Korean traditional clothing. Before joining these programs, though, you need to make a reservation 2 days in advance, and depending on the type of program you are interested in, the cost and time are different. Therefore, before heading there, you should check out the Museum’s website for concrete information. Interestingly, professional martial arts fighter, Akiyama Yoshihiro (Chu Seonghun) and his daughter Chu Sarang have even visited Kimchikan Museum and reported a great time making Kimchi while filming KBS TV show The Return of Superman.
One of the World’s Top Food Museums
The Pulmuone Kimchi Museum, which was established in Samseong-dong Trade Center in 1986, was re-opened on April 21, 2015, in Insa-dong as Kimchikan Museum. This is Korea’s first ever museum focusing solely on Kimchi, and it has a history of over 30 years. The museum is often featured on worldwide media, and in March 2015, the Museum was selected by CNN as one of the world’s top 11 food museums, the only one from Korea. Despite the lower number, compared to Koreans, non-Koreans interested in Korean food, most of visitors are foreigners. Also, most of the rest of visitors are children who came to the museum along with the parents or teachers. As it’s rarely crowded, you can look around the Museum leisurely, and on the 5th floor, there are cafée and open garden, so you are free to relax and enjoy your time. Therefore, if you are looking for something unique to do with friends, younger siblings or cousins, the Museum is a great place to visit. There you can enjoy various Kimchi, look at exhibits, and participate in a program of your choice.