Do men and kimchi-making mix?

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Do men and kimchi-making mix?

JINCHEON, North Chungcheong
There was an unusual sight last week at Dongwon’s kimchi factory here.
Blond, blue-eyed men were chopping leeks with kitchen knives. They were cutting the vegetable all wrong, mind you - in a zigzag fashion - but persevered in ignoring their tears.
Beside them, an Asian man cut a large pear. He wasn’t doing a very good job, either, peeling away chunks of the edible parts along with the skin. An elderly gentleman, however, was cutting a turnip with care. His inexperience was visible in his hands.
Throw out the stereotype of ajumma, or middle-aged women, enduring the sweaty, tiring ritual of kimjang, or winter kimchimaking, alone each year. These men, whose faces carried a look of seriousness, came to learn to help their wives with kimjang. The event was jointly hosted by Dongwon Foods & Beverages Co. and Akia, a group whose initials stand for “Ajumma for Raising Ajumma.” The ultimate goal, organizers say, is making kimjang a family affair.
“It’s harder than we thought,” said Kim Hee-gon, a vice chairman with the Byuksan Group. “We ought to help our wives more,”
About 40 couples, many from leading political, business and academic circles, rolled up their sleeves in preparation for this tradition-bound food-making ritual.
The men definitely needed some help, and the wives slathered them with advice.
“Putting a lot of filling in the cabbage is not going to make this tasty,” said Eom Yeong-ram, the wife of Cho Se-hyung, who is president of the Korea Astronomy Observatory. “You should stuff it between the cabbage leaves evenly.”
About 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of salted cabbages and half-ripened kimchiso, or kimchi stuffing, was prepared for each person. And for those who wanted to add their own spices, salted anchovies, pickled shrimps, leeks of all sizes, oysters and powdered red pepper were on hand.
“Carefully fold the cabbages that have been stuffed with kimchiso and put it in the container,” advised Park Jong-suk, a kimchi coach. “It will make the taste come alive.” Assistants lent a hand to foreigners and Korean husbands who were struggling.
Michael Geier, Germany’s Ambassador to Korea, was participating with his daughter. “The process of cutting up cabbage and putting it in ceramic vases reminds me of the German delicacy sauerkraut,” Mr. Geier said. “I wonder if my kimchi will be as delicious as the kimchi made by Korean nationals.”
Chang Hyeon-jun and Park So-yeon, a young married couple, came with Mr. Chang’s parents and their 11-month-old.
Ms. Park’s father-in-law embraced the possibility of participating in kimjang. “Helping out with household chores does not mean that the position of the head of the family is weakened. It is wise to help out whenever one can,” he said.
The event will continue until Saturday. The cost is 90,000 won ($75) for 20 kilograms of kimchi or 120,000 won for 30 kilograms. For details, call (02) 589-3113.

by Yoo Ji-sang
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