Located only slightly above the 38th parallel, Keum-gang Mountain (금강산) is often referred to as the “diamond of Korea” for its scenic beauty. Koreans’ profound affection for Mt. Keum-gang is apparent even from its nomenclature, in which the mountain is called by four different names that describe the varying ways in which the mountain appears in each of the four seasons. This national beauty had been off-limits to South Koreans after the ceasefire of the Korean War, until 1998 when the North Korean government started to allow South Korean and foreign tourists to visit through the private sector. In 2002, the region was made a “special administrative region” to facilitate South Korean tourist activities in the area. To many, such a move made by the North Korean government not only signified their willingness to work towards peaceful means of reunification, but also the potentials of the private sector of improving inter-Korea relations as a new approach to the issue.
Korean culture is one that values food, in which sharing a meal is an essential part of getting to know a person. So how are the cuisines in North Korea different from, or similar to, their counterparts in South Korea? I imagine that many of you reading this article have had some kind of exposure to South Korean food—the spicy Kimchi orbibimbap with beef, various vegetables, and rice all mixed with spicy pepper paste. North Korean cuisines are similar, but different in certain aspects due to geographical and climatic characteristics of the region. Korean food is typically known for its spiciness, but in fact, North Korean food is usually not as spicy as southern ones. Why? Because the climate in south is hotter, they learned to use saltier, spicier seasonings in order to preserve the food for as long as possible. In contrast, in the north because it is much colder, the taste is simpler. While both Koreas eat rice as their main staple, due to the mountainous topography North Koreans traditionally take multigrain rice as opposed to white rice or barley rice in the south where the lands are fertile.
Name: Janice Kim
Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College
Likes: Inception, doenjang jjigae, French
Dislikes: butterflies, yellow pencils