‘If Kimchi was out of existence, how can I eat tasty?’ This is the first line of the ‘Kimchi theme song’ by Gwangtae Jung. For a while, we forgot this song in our memories, but why it comes to mind suddenly? China claims that it is the originator of Korean traditional food ‘Kimchi’, clothes, song, even Korean IT industry. Far from reflecting, China is widening the claim. Let’s find out why China argues it is at the origin of Korean cultures.
The controversy of China’s New Northeast Project started because China’s official news agency Global Times claimed that “Paochai received certification from the International Organization for Standardization(ISO).” “China’s Kimchi industry became the standard of international Kimchi market.” Following this posture, the controversy deepened because China’s famous Youtuber Liziqi and the Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun uploaded a video that promote
s Kimchi. Then, China’s portal site Baidu posted a message that “Samgyetang is one of ancient China’s Guangdong-style soup made with Goryeo ginseng, chicken, glutinous rice,” which is most representative of Korean court cuisine. And China started to appropriate Korea’s overall cultural industry like game and broadcast. Last April, a mobile game ‘Call me Emperor’ was released in the local market. But Korean netizens point out that the game’s woman character is very similar to the one in the Korean drama ‘Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.’ Also, a famous entertainment show ‘Street Dance of China: Season 3’ has a lot of obvious Korean-inspired publicity. The show’s participant danced on Korean traditional music ‘Arirang’, but it does not mention anything about Korea.
China’s Northeast Project seeks to strengthen the Chinese Nation. Hannam University Department of Chinese Business and Economics professor, Dong-chul Kwak, said that China claims its history has overlapped and shared values with that of Korea from times immemorial. “During the cultural revolution, China destroyed and trampled over its own ancestral artifacts and it does not know clearly what was originally the nation’s traditions. So, China quibbles over historical cases because of its anxiety about self-distrust.” Professor Kwak adds, “China tries to theorize a ‘Chinese nation’ as combining and unifying 56 nations including Han; that’s different from the United States that recognizes individual identity.” “Also, the Korean-Chinese culture was not connected with Korea; eventually, China is constructing a ‘Chinese nation’s culture.’
Chinese culture overlapped in many parts with Korea, but China’s Northeast Project Cultural project is a distortion of history and cultural appropriation. As time goes by, they are getting over the top. So, many people have been raising their voice to counter China’s Northeast Project. On this account, Korea has taken counter-measures by setting up the Goguryeo Research Foundation and launching the Northeast Asian History Foundation. Also, the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (Vank), an Internet-based organization funded by the Korean government, is actively involved in promoting Korean traditional culture to the world using the native language. Vank perceived that using foreign languages without native language damages to Korea’s culture traditions and provides arguments for cultural distortion.
China’s Northeast Project Cultural project is not a recent development. China decided to push ahead with a study on June 2001 and started to implement the project with the official authorization of the Government of China on February 18, 2002. These days, more than 30 TV programs by Korean broadcasters, SBS’s ‘Finding Genius’, Mnet’s ‘Produce 101’, tvN’s ‘Three meals a day’, have beenplagiarized by China. The Chinese Northeast Project Cultural project, over arts and culture, has a detrimental influence in neighboring countries. Professor Dong-Chul Kwak said, “Another country’s history must be seen objectively; China’s main drawback is to see and judge other countries through Chinese nation’s glasses. China has to understand and respect other countries’ cultures.” To prevent China’s distortion of history, quick governmental response and open-minded civility are more important than ever.