2010 Kimchi Warrior vs. 2015 Saemaeul Game
Korean online game fans might have experienced deja vu, a feeling of having gone through the same event before, last week. The Korea Creative Content Agency last week announced its annual funding plans for this year’s game design and production. One of them was the game-based clinical treatment and learning category. The category is often used for mock trial training for aspiring law students or simulation piloting in the United States.
The theme the agency set out to fund in this category this year was “Saemaul Undong,” or a nationwide rural development campaign launched under the Park Chung Hee administration in the 1970s that served as bedrock for the country’s modernization drive. The agency assigned the game design to export the Saemaul movement spirit to underdeveloped countries. The winner will receive 160 million won ($144,000). This reminded me of a propaganda-themed project from five years ago. It is the Korean version of Popeye: “Kimchi Warrior.” The Kimchi Warrior clad in a greenish spandex suit is a superhero who gets his powers from the Korean super food, kimchi. The cabbage hero together with his red pepper girlfriend works as a duo to combat the evils of swine flu, mad cow disease, SARs, malaria and other modern-day diseases. He uses different “ingredient weapons” to wipe out disease enemies. He even saves New York City from the outbreak of swine flu and gets a medal of honor from U.S. President Barack Obama in one episode.
Believe it or not, the animation series is real. The state-run Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation invested 150 million won to make the animation series for the purpose of “globalizing” kimchi.” Regardless of the design purpose, the infantile quality of the animation brought more shame to the Korean staple dish than honor. Some even said viewers were disgusted by the dish upon seeing the animation.
Globalization of Korean cuisine had been former President Lee Myung-bak’s wife Kim Yoon-ok’s ambitious campaign. Does this ring a bell? Saemaul movement is the signature theory and campaign of the late President Park Chung Hee, who is the father of incumbent President Park Geun-hye.
The creator of the condiment hero is equally interesting. He set a Guinness World Record for lowest-budget feature-length film by making a movie with just $980. What he has done since making the Kimchi Warrior is mystifying. He bade for a candidacy ticket from the ruling Saenuri Party to run in parliamentary election in 2012 and was turned down. He wrote in his resume that he was the creator of the Kimchi Warrior that helped to publicize the merits of kimchi to the world.
by Shim Seo-hyeon, Staff writer on digital content for the JoongAng Ilbo