[Letters] Let’s create a Chinese name for kimchi

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[Letters] Let’s create a Chinese name for kimchi

The amount of kimchi consumption in China is tremendous. Many Chinese enjoy the Korean pickled vegetable, which serves a key role in globalizing Korean cuisine and promoting Korean culture. However, there is no official name for kimchi in Chinese. In 2001, the Codex Alimentarius Commission defined the standards for kimchi and its official name in English, but no Chinese characters exist for it. The packages of kimchi products distributed in China contain Korean letters for kimchi and “pao tsai” in Chinese. Pao tsai refers to pickled vegetables such as “tsa tsai” and “sual tsai.” Chinese people call kimchi “Korean pao tsai,” “spicy pao tsai” and “white pao tsai.”

The lack of a Chinese name often makes local Chinese doubt the legitimacy of kimchi. Some even argue that pao tsai and tsa tsai are the origin of kimchi, insisting that the traditional Korean food is an imitation of Chinese pickles with a clearly different taste, appearance and preparation. Ungrounded claims such as “Pao tsai, which was first developed in Sichuan Province 1500 years ago, was taken to Korea and became kimchi” and “Korea has copied Sichuan’s traditional fermented pao tsai and is spreading kimchi around the world” can be found on the Internet. The misunderstanding may have been inspired by the failure to accommodate the cultural difference and shows that there should be a Chinese name for kimchi in China.

Unfortunately, Chinese people have a hard time correctly pronouncing kimchi. We need to find meaningful Chinese characters with similar pronunciations. How about “jinchi,” using letters for “gold” and “beauty” or “dingchi,” meaning “clean spirit”? In a recent kimchi symposium at Sunchon University, Yang In-gyu of the Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation proposed “sinchi,” meaning “spicy vegetable.”

It is a national challenge to find a Chinese name for kimchi and make it a standard in the industry and markets in China. Chinese used to call Seoul “Hancheng,” but we have successfully changed it to “Shouer” to better reflect the original pronunciation.

Park Jong-cheol Director of the Kimchi Institute at Sunchon University
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