Diplomacy that matters

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Diplomacy that matters


Hanging pollack began to appear in the Jinburyeong Valley of Yongdaeri in Gangwon’s Inje County in the early 1960s.

Fishermen from Wonsan in North Korea - a place so famous for pollack as to appear in a song composed by Byeon Hun with lyrics written by poet Yang Myong-moon - came south and tried to dry pollack all over Gangwon, without success.

After many attempts and failures, they finally found the perfect place to dry pollack. That was Yongdaeri.

The weather is so important in drying pollack that people say it is a joint task, on a ratio of 7:3, between God and humans.

When pollack repeatedly freeze in fierce cold weather with a mighty wind and melt under the midday sun, its structure softens and its meat turns yellow.

Such dried pollack shows its value when used to make broth to cure hangovers.

But most of the pollack we see hanging in Yongdaeri is Russian, and it’s not a recent development.

Pollack thrive in the cold currents near the Bering Sea and Kamchatka Peninsula, then follow the currents to the East Sea in the fall to stay until March the following year.

But due to recent global warming, the East Sea’s temperature has risen, such that Russian pollack no longer come south to Korea. They are almost nonexistent in Korea.

There was a time when poor families could not afford to eat meat.

Because pollack was easily affordable, an old saying gained currency: “We tear pollack and lick our fingers.”

However, this saying has become archaic.

It is for this reason that pollack, the former staple of poorer Koreans’ tables, has been put on the table of the serious Korea-Russia Summit talks.

President Lee Myung-bak asked for Russia’s cooperation in allocating higher fishing quotas, saying, “Pollack are a very important fish in Korea that must be put on the table for ancestral worship.”

As a result, Russia announced last week that it would increase our fishing quota for pollack in Russian waters by 7,000 tons.

Instead of empty words that we will upgrade our relations with Russia to strategic relations, this tangible result will touch the lives of the public far more.

In this time of disheartening news, with a frozen economy, distress over shrinking wallets from the U.S. financial meltdown and threats to our health from melamine-tainted Chinese products, we can at least calm our burning stomachs with a hearty soup of dried pollack from Russia.

The writer is a deputy political editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yeh Young-june [yyjune@joongang.co.kr]
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