Why Koreans Chew So Loudly; or Why South Korea is One of the Greatest Economic Phenomena of All Time

courtesy of www.koreandramafashion.com

courtesy of www.koreandramafashion.com

It was a bustling time in the refectory, with the sound of silverware and trays clattering, chairs being pushed in and out, and the chattering of students and faculty alike excited for a midday break between classes. Tables were filled with plates of food and condiments, and the conversations oscillated between theological academia and personal plans for the upcoming break. With a strong international program, a large percentage of the students were first-generation Koreans, and they reservedly mingled with their English-speaking cohorts. It was in the midst of this when a good friend, a Caucasian woman in her early thirties, leaned over and frankly asked: why do Koreans chew so loudly and so often with their mouths open?

The irony was glaring, of course, for all those who were sitting within earshot. Asking about the proclivities of an entire race based on the experiences of a few, and so bluntly, was uncharacteristic of a culture-minded, progressively liberal community. But none really knew that I didn’t mind, especially because she and I were good friends, and this was something I could laugh about. Plus, her intonation was of genuine curiosity rather than indicative passive-aggression. There was, however, a fraction of a second that I considered being offended, but I simply chose not to and honestly wondered about the question.

Siphoning through my memories, I realized that this was a rather true statement. There are many opportunities for Koreans to sit and eat together, most notably in church settings and family gatherings. And, to be completely honest, it was a tendency of Koreans to be rather rude at the dinner table according to the western rubric. Koreans often chewed loudly and with open mouths; they spoke animatedly with their mouths full; and they often tried others’ foods, many times without asking. It was something I’d never considered before, and, in fact, eating, talking, and chewing loudly was something I considered indications of a lively meal.

But to understand why Koreans may seem so rude at the dinner table, we need to go back many decades, all the way back to the early 20th century when, for Koreans, simply finding food was a chief worry.

War Torn Korea

The early 1900s was a violent period for Korea. Starting in 1910, the peninsula was occupied by Japan following the Russo-Japanese war. The aim was absolute jurisdiction; the native language and culture were forcibly discouraged, and Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names and convert to Shinto, the official Japanese religion. Any opposition was brutally handled, including the Independence Movement of 1919, where tens of thousands were killed, injured, or imprisoned.

courtesy of www.history.com

courtesy of www.history.com

Japanese occupation ended in 1945, which saw the end of World War II. But the year saw a new kind of conflict as the United States and Russia disagreed over whose rule the peninsula fell. The compromise drew an arbitrary line at the 38th parallel, and it is an angry mark of division that still plagues the divided country today. The northern region fell under the USSR’s communist rule as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), while the southern end was under U.S. jurisdiction as the Republic of Korea (ROK).

The year 1950 saw the manifestation of this divide in bloody battle. Backed by Joseph Stalin, Kim Il-Sung launched a formal invasion of South Korea on June 25. The army reached Seoul in three days, and a fierce war raged along the Han, the river that flows through the heart of the South Korean capital. For the United States, this war fought on the soil of this relatively tiny peninsula meant the tipping of the scale of communism itself on an international level. The U.S. government under Harry Truman sought and received sanction from the United Nations to intervene on the side of South Korea, and the U.S. military came to its aid in July. The efforts were more or less working, keeping the defensive against the North Korean army and drawing them back slowly further up north. That is, until the Chinese intervened on behalf of communism. In October of 1950, the Chinese army fought on the side of communism with North Korea, and by January of 1951, they had recaptured Seoul.

courtesy of www.history.com

courtesy of www.history.com

A few more years passed of relative stalemate, but this did not mean that things were stagnant. By the time a cease-fire armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, an estimated 4-5 million people, both military and civilians, had lost their lives or gone missing. It was a bloody war that began and ended at the same 38th parallel, and, in many ways, it is something from which Korea is still recovering today.

Economic Growth in South Korea

By the end of the war, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world with a devastating $64 per capita income. The land was scarred by the rampage that had taken place over the last few years, especially with the world’s powers believing that the culmination of the struggle between democracy and communism hinged on the war fought on this small peninsula. With the involvement of several of the world’s superpowers at the time, the battles were supplied with enough capital and men to feed a constant massacre that resulted in nothing more than a re-marking of the line drawn at the 38th parallel. Which is why it is nothing short of a miracle what South Korea has done since the end of the Korean War. 

courtesy of www.atthegrapevine.com

courtesy of www.atthegrapevine.com

courtesy of gadgets.ndtv.com

courtesy of gadgets.ndtv.com

South Korea’s GDP grew a staggering 31,000-fold since 1953. By 2004, South Korea was the 12th largest economy in the world, joining the trillion-dollar club in global economies. South Korea’s import of raw goods and materials and export of technology products has grown tremendously, with Samsung Electronics making up some 20% of South Korea’s entire economy. This was all possible due to South Korea’s relationship with the U.S., namely as the recipient of foreign aid, receiving an estimated $12.7 billion between 1945 and the 1990s; but what could be said is the most distinguishing mark of South Korea’s success in the global economy is when it went from being the recipient of foreign aid to active donor in 2006 to the Development Assistance Committee.

courtesy of www.koreaboo.com

courtesy of www.koreaboo.com

South Korea’s international rise can also be seen in the permeation of its culture in the global sphere. It boasts a booming entertainment industry, notably its K-Pop scene, with pop stars like 2NE1's CL who topped various celebrity lists, receiving more votes than even Beyonce and Taylor Swift on the Times 100 Reader’s Poll. South Korea’s film industry has also captured international interest, with Asia’s largest film festival being held in Busan and with movies such as 2002’s Shiri breaking Titanic’s record of 4.3 million viewers with 6.2 million.

Needless to say, South Korea’s meteoric rise is both staggering and unprecedented on a global scale. But the question remains: with all their success and apparent wealth carrying them into the first world, why are Koreans such bad guests at the dinner table?

The South Korean Economy and Korean Table Manners

You might’ve guessed where this is going, but in case you haven’t, let’s consider the Korean style of eating. If you’ve read about the rising popularity of kimchi in Atlanta, you might’ve picked up on the fact that the Korean dinner table consists of many side dishes. The only real dish that is personally indulged is a bowl of rice. A main platter, usually derived of meat or fish, may be at the center of the table for all to share, but more often than not, meals consist of individual bowls of rice with several small dishes of seasoned vegetables at the center of the table.

courtesy of english.visitkorea.or.kr

courtesy of english.visitkorea.or.kr

This culture, then, leads to a very communal style of eating. For centuries, the dinner table was a place to commune, and it’s not uncommon to see mothers placing items with their chopsticks on their children’s rice bowls for them to eat. This communal style of eating does not seem to translate well into the western culture, however, where personal space and individual rights are highly emphasized, especially at the dinner table. Trying others’ food and sitting rather close are cultural transgressions in the western hemisphere, and encroaching on personal space may make persons uncomfortable when dining. However, this is a practice that goes back as far as Koreans were eating, and because everyone shares from the same dishes, the table is rather a close space for family and guests.

But what may make Koreans the worst diners in America is the fact that the South Korean economy rose very quickly—perhaps too quickly. It was less than a generation ago that the South Korean people were scrounging for food in the war torn land; it’s a feat to expect Koreans to learn "first world" behaviors such as nuanced table manners in less than a generation. Most second generation Korean-Americans may have learned these behaviors at school or other intercultural experiences, but first generation Koreans may find it novel and even constricting to impede behaviors at meal time. Some may find that seeing their guests eating loudly shows that they are “맛있게 먹는다” or “eating deliciously.”

courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

So the next time you may wonder why a Korean or Korean-American is being apparently rude at the dinner table, keep this one fact in mind: it’s most likely because South Korea is one of the most amazing feats of economic development in history and an example of tenacity and perseverance in the face of a post-war era.

Hip-Hop and Korea: How The Post-Civil Rights Era Gave Voice to the Korean Immigrant

courtesy of allkpop.com

courtesy of allkpop.com

Hip-hop is a ubiquitous genre of music that has permeated cultures worldwide, and South Korea was no exception.

South Korea can boast a booming music industry, and the most recognizable example is probably PSY’s Gangnam Style, which hit almost 2.5 billion views as YouTube’s most watched video of all time. It’s also a great example to refer to because PSY’s style of singing in the song can arguably be said to be very heavily influenced by a unique blend of rap and K-pop.

But as we begin to understand the connection that Koreans have with hip-hop — especially amongst Korean-Americans in Atlanta today — we may begin to see that there is more to it than just mere preference, and a correlation may start to unfold that reveals a complex relationship indicating a socioeconomic trend behind our taste in music.

However, to explain that relationship, we need to understand hip-hop a little deeper.

The Origins of Hip-Hop

courtesy of zulunationromaina.wordpress.com

courtesy of zulunationromaina.wordpress.com

It is without a doubt that hip-hop began in the Bronx in the late 60s and early 70s. There is much speculation about who it was that truly fathered it, but it may do better to see it as a collaborative effort rather than the motive of a single person, which gives an insight into what hip-hop was truly meant to accomplish. The story, however, would be severely lacking if it didn’t include Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc.

At the time, the only way to get exposure in the music sphere was to simply perform, and so block parties in the Bronx became a frequent undertaking for DJs to showcase their talents, as well as providing an avenue for groups of people to socialize and enjoy music together. DJ Kool Herc is largely credited for being the first to throw a block party that showcased hip-hop in its earliest form. At its onset, rap was simply improvised rhymes spoken over the percussion section of reggae hits that he would spin, and soon enough, these improvised rhymes became elongated by context and inspiration, and thus, rap began to take form.

To contrive transitions and insert frequent interjections, DJ Kool Herc was seen influencing the spinning records to produce a scratching noise. Grandmaster Flash began to explore DJ Kool Herc’s method of turntable scratches, ultimately turning it into an art form that could be improved and perfected through experimentation. In this way, records could be manipulated in the moment to introduce a certain blend of improvisation and spontaneity. Grandmaster Flash’s work, then, became the foundation for the turntablists and the distinct sound often heard in hip-hop music.

courtesy of thatericalper.com

courtesy of thatericalper.com

Finally, we see a culmination of what had been heavily brewing in the Bronx becoming a genre in its own right when Afrika Bambaataa began to rap over these manipulated sounds, recording his base performances for the world to hear. The unique blend of reggae influences, record scratching, and a new form of narrative-telling caught the world’s attention. This is why Forbes magazine dubbed him “the man who invented hip-hop.”

But what fueled hip-hop? Looking back, there are records that show that hip-hop was not merely about the sound of the music. It was about its content. The early 70s, when hip-hop first started taking root, was a period of unrest and political dissonance in the wake of the civil rights movement. There were groups like The Lost Poets who spoke from a place of passion and social justice, and with block parties being a crucial place for black Americans to congregate, they began to speak over music, infusing their spoken word to the beats of the percussion.

Hip-hop, then, is largely a medium for what to say as much as it is how to say it.

The black community of the post-civil rights era had much to say that were on their minds regarding the oppressed and marginalized status of their race in the late 60s and 70s, and what hip-hop did was to send the message, filled with anecdotes, ideals, and proposals, out to one another and to the world at large. Hip-hop was becoming a way of life rather than a genre of music, and it conveyed itself in all aspects of life.

This can be seen in the fact that hip-hop is not a single form of expression. Rap is one, yes, but hip-hop can be said to be comprised of three other parts, totaling four distinct elements. The other three include disc jockeying, graffiti, and breakdancing, and all four share a crucial character of counter-culture: disc jockeying took what was a relatively passive posture of listening to music into an active performance that rooted itself in the moment; rapping unfurled a narrative that was thick in the movement of the post-civil rights culture; graffiti allowed an expressive avenue all over what was otherwise a sterile canvas in urban areas; and breakdancing broke from traditional trends and steps and used all parts of the body in a hypnotizing performance.

Hip-Hop and South Korea

It wasn’t until the early 90s that the influence of hip-hop began to be apparent in pop culture in South Korea.

courtesy of soompi.com

courtesy of soompi.com

Some of the earliest Korean groups that incorporated hip-hop into their music were Seotaiji and Boys, Deux, and DJ DOC. The Korean language, with its syllable-oriented, individualistic characters and syntactically situated suffixes, allowed for it to translate easily into rap form via rhythm and rhyme. Over time, a largely rock and pop genre that occasionally incorporated rap in their music evolved into a hip-hop culture in its own right, and it became a norm for most groups in the Kpop scene to rap, if not exclusively, then heavily in their tracks.

And music isn’t the only sphere that hip-hop has influenced in South Korea. Breakdancing has become a phenomenon in this small country. Since 2002, when they won their first Battle of the Year, South Korea has finished in first place seven separate times at the global breakdancing competition, their more recent victory being in 2013.

courtesy of battleoftheyear.de

courtesy of battleoftheyear.de

And so it comes as no surprise that Korean-Americans growing up in the United States have been heavily influenced by hip-hop as well, especially in the city of Atlanta that brought to the world its own brand of sound.

Hip-Hop in Atlanta

Atlanta can claim its own distinct sound of hip-hop.

courtesy of allmusic.com

courtesy of allmusic.com

Atlanta saw many artists begin to evolve soul into the hip-hop form, but it wasn’t until Outkast began taking the stage in the early 90s that Atlanta could boast of a concretely definitive sound that had substantially infiltrated the music industry. Outkast is from Decatur, located to the immediate east of downtown Atlanta, but there were many other artists from other parts of the metro area. One prominent name is S.W.A.T.S. (Southwest Atlanta Too Strong) which included Goodie Mob, who hailed from College Park and East Point — located southwest of the city — and whose lyrics aimed to change the identity of southern black Americans in a new age.

Following the newly founded path, producers like Lil Jon began to perpetuate a distinctly southern sound, often described to be “dirty,” broaching “upbeat, exuberant, club-friendly tunes and simplistic, heavily rhythmic lyrical delivery." Amidst other artists such as Ludacris, T.I., Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy, and many more, Atlanta has become a hub for hip-hop and rap, and it’s something that the city is rather proud of for its prolific and popular production of music.

Hip-Hop and the Korean-American Community

So this is the context within which the Korean community grew in Atlanta. Growing alongside a genre of music — or rather, a community of people who produced such a genre — has had lasting impacts on the young generation who observed the setting that so widely differed from their immigrant context.

courtesy of kollaboration.org

courtesy of kollaboration.org

The voices of the Korean-American can be said to gravitate towards hip-hop due to its unfiltered nature. The first artists of hip-hop used the medium to speak without hindrance, and it has afforded a new avenue for artists today. Paul Choi, also known as Pass and is one of three in an Atlanta-based group called The Yellow Boyz — the name arguably turning what can be considered a derogatory description into a self-designating appellation — pursued hip-hop as a passion largely “because it is uncensored… It can be serious, sad, boasting, whatever you feel at the moment.”

Thus, this uncensored nature of hip-hop allows for a certain type of voice. It goes without saying that the far reach of hip-hop is more than just musically appreciated; it is often appropriated for a message. Hip-hop accomplishes something that other genres simply can’t in terms of its scope. Danny Eun, an Atlanta Korean-American and no stranger to the studio and the production of music, says that “on a very fundamental, basic level, hip-hop allows more words to be used,” allowing for specific, tailored messages to be put across through music. He goes on to note that “[hip-hop] accomplishes voicing a segment of America that was unheard of and uncared for at all.”

Akademikz

Akademikz

And that is its essence. Andy Shin, also known as his stage name Akademikz, shares that “hip-hop is the perfect expression of pain and realness. This is why hip-hop appeals to people so much. The hip-hop art form is blunt… People want something to relate to and hip-hop makes it easy.” His songs even reflect this unadulterated expression of his struggles, giving voice to the tension he feels when finding himself at the threshold between cultures and expectations.

courtesy of songversationswithjennifer.com

courtesy of songversationswithjennifer.com

However, hip-hop does more than just carry a message — it speaks, but it speaks uniquely. Jennifer Chung, YouTube personality and singer, says that “I think hip hop appeals to some groups of people over others for various different reasons; the top two being 1) able to identify with the context of the rapper's words or 2) the production of the music. For the dance community especially, hip hop has the ability to convey different tones and energy through production alone.”

And over time, it should be noted that hip-hop is as much a culture as it is a genre. People are influenced by it — at its core — through other people, therefore making relationship through music. Edward Sun, a local hip-hop artist who goes by the name Kaptivated, is a Chinese-American, but his music reaches to a broad Asian audience, including Koreans. Regarding his pursuit of hip-hop, he represents this intergenerational relay of culture: “My older brother listened to a ton of hip hop growing up, so it was the only genre of music I was exposed to as a young teenager… After enough time listening to these artists (among many more), I eventually started pursuing hip hop as creative expression.” His pursuit has been deeply influenced by his Christian faith, and it is one more way hip-hop has paved the way for the expressions of passions, including religious convictions.

Kaptivated

Kaptivated

But the question remains whether the hip-hop phenomenon is a deeply rooted one in the Korean-American community in the Atlanta area. According to the U.S. 2010 census, Georgia is home to some 52,000 Koreans, almost doubled from about 28,000 in 2000. Korean-Americans today are most heavily found in the city of Duluth, about twenty-five miles north of the capital, where they make up about 30% of its population, but they are also found in other affluent areas such as Johns Creek, which has been ranked 3rd in the top fifty places to live in the U.S.

Hip-hop may have been an attractive medium early on, perhaps up to about a decade ago when Korean-Americans channeled their immigrant struggles, but lately, the Asian-American population has put on the image of the model minority. An anecdotal experience is when a local church of the Duluth area held their annual talent show to raise money, and most of their participants into the late 2000s either rapped or showcased a hip-hop choreography. Beginning in 2011, however, a strange trend began to emerge as all of their contestants suddenly changed genres, almost all of them singing over acoustic guitar. Most notable at a glance, their style of dress had changed from large shirts and heavy jeans to more fitting, conservative styles.

It may very well be that hip-hop, when seen from its beginning in counter-cultural and post-civil rights roots, inherently speaks to and is spoken from a place of struggle in the margins of society. Thus, early Korean-American youths of immigrant parents in Atlanta may have found a deep connection to the music and the inner conflict they felt being in between cultures. However, with the rise in affluence and prosperity in the Korean community — an accolade certainly worthy of praise considering many of the previous generation’s immigrant status — could the shift in socioeconomic circumstance have influenced the incoming generation of Korean-Americans and their taste in music?

John Song, a native Atlanta Korean-American, as well as rapper, songwriter, and producer of many years, has noted the changes in the recent generation. “Over the years, hip-hop has propelled itself into popular culture and has become a standard influence for most pop music. I think the interest in hip-hop as a creative outlet has definitely become less popular with the emergence of EDM and electronic music,” he says. He’s watched the industry evolve firsthand, and he believes that ultimately “whatever market in music that makes the most money will dictate the influence in culture and their respective creators.” Still, this hasn’t hindered his taste, and he believes in the artistic expression of hip-hop, continuing to create music in the genre.

Whether or not this is the case, hip-hop is evidently bigger than any single struggle or race, and so it will continue to give voice to the marginalized, telling narratives of struggles and victories through a distinct sound. And, as for the Korean-American community, though there may arguably be less involvement in the production of it, David Song, a local Atlanta producer, aptly puts it:

Everyone I know loves hip-hop.

The Side Dish at the Center of the Table: A Story of Kimchi in Atlanta

Photo courtesy of www.maangchi.com

Photo courtesy of www.maangchi.com

If there's any indication of the widespread immigration of Koreans, then it's the influence that kimchi has had on the culinary sphere. Wherever Koreans go, kimchi ensues. 

The name kimchi may conjure up many words, like spicy, red, salty, pungent, or even umami, complex, robust, and—more recently taking precedence—vegetarian and organic. But the particularly unique taste that seems to sharply complement rather than overtake the main dish has made kimchi an imaginative and fun addition to the artillery of ingredients for chefs and cooks, and it’s influences are well observed in a city budding with new talent and cultural shifts, Atlanta.

A Brief History

The history of kimchi dates almost back to the third century. Records of the Three Kingdoms mentions the process of fermentation that defines the Korean culinary staples, including bean paste. Due to long and harsh winters, the people had to find ways to make food last, and brine preservatives made fermentation in the ground the main option for lasting against the cold. The Koryeo Period (918-1392) saw evidence of more and more kinds of vegetables being experimented with in the fermentation process, but it wasn’t until the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) that we see the kind of kimchi that we’re familiar with today.

What we believe to be the Korean national food is, in fact, largely thanks to foreign influences. The cabbage that is most widely used to make kimchi was an import of China, and the red pepper that adorns almost every kind of kimchi imaginable didn’t appear in Korea until about the 1500s through—get this—the Japanese. Through Portuguese trade from the Americas and Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s attempts to invade Korea in 1592-1598, red chili pepper was introduced to the peninsula and became the main source of spice for kimchi and many other Korean dishes.

All this tells us that kimchi isn’t really a food as it is a process, perfected by necessity to overcome harsh conditions. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different kinds of kimchi, and its earliest predecessors looked nothing like the side dish we enjoy today. What started as a survival tactic has become an art in its own right, and it’s safe to say that the culinary world, whether for better or for worse, will never be the same.

Main Ingredients

The most popular type of kimchi made from the Napa cabbage has a few basic ingredients:
Cabbage
Salt / water (Brine)
Red Chili pepper – dried
Ginger
Garlic
Fish sauce
Scallions
Radish

Photo courtesy of www.crazykoreancooking.com

Photo courtesy of www.crazykoreancooking.com

Napa cabbage is often substituted for other types of vegetables, such as cucumbers, and radish is an option that allows for a variety for texture if it isn’t acting as the main vegetable itself. Of course, as mentioned before, there is hardly a single way to make kimchi, and this is simply just one of many personalities. To meet these personalities in Atlanta, however, you have only to go to one of many locations all over the metro area to try it in its many forms.

Kimchi in Atlanta

Today, Atlanta is bustling with Korean restaurants and markets, most notably in the Gwinnett area of Duluth on or near Pleasant Hill Road.

But any native of Atlanta of Korean descent knows that the birthplace of Korean cuisine was on Buford Highway in Doraville. Harue, Hae Woon Dae, Don Quixote, 88, and Gohyang House—just to name a few—are all names of old, but they invoke good memories of family dining that was tucked away on this long, obscure stretch of road. Hae Woon Dae, in fact, is still open, but they didn’t get the memo for the mass migration up north along I-85, and the tattered newspaper clippings that adorn its entrance of its heyday is a reminder of their forlorn status.

Photo courtesy of www.southerfoodways.org

Photo courtesy of www.southerfoodways.org

So it’s no wonder that the first place to commercially purchase kimchi was on Buford Highway, most likely to provide for the many restaurants that dotted the roadside. Buford Highway Farmers Market first opened over forty years ago in 1974 on Oakcliff Road, and it wasn’t until 1985 when Harold Shinn opened its hundred-thousand-square-foot location off of I-285 to accommodate the immense demand for international foods, including Hispanic, Eastern European, and other Asian cultures.

This was the first place in Atlanta to buy kimchi.

Next came Agnes Market, opened by the Rhee family circa 1987 on Buford Highway. This was much before the migration up north, but they accommodated and made the move along with the Korean-American people to the Steve Reynolds and Satellite Boulevard intersection in 1996, named Hangang after the Han River that flows through the heart of Seoul, South Korea.

What came next was evidence of the huge influx of Korean immigrants into the Atlanta area. In 2004, H Mart opened its first location on Pleasant Hill Road. H Mart is an entire market dedicated to the Korean-American populace, along with many other items for other Southeast Asian cultures. Over the next four years, they opened four more successive locations all over the northern Atlanta area, with its most recent opening off of Peachtree Road, which is ironically the closest one to the original stretch of Buford Highway where the first Korean restaurants could be found.

And they weren’t without competition from other chains that also noted the population increase and the rise in demand for Korean markets. Nam Dae Mun opened their first off of Shackleford Road near Duluth in 2005, and has since added five more locations dotted all over metro Atlanta. The same year, Assi Plaza opened their first on Old Peachtree Road in Suwannee, and joined the Duluth territory in 2009 on Pleasant Hill Road on the opposite side of I-85.

Now, kimchi can be bought at any of these locations, but they are undoubtedly Korean owned and targeted. Where we see kimchi making its mark is in its progression and influences on its surrounding cultures, most notably the southern origins.

Kimchi and Other Foods

The name Jiyeon Lee may be familiar to those old enough to have listened to Korean pop music back in the late 80s. She recorded several songs that became wildly popular, but after a while, she was unheard of for many years.

Fast forward to 2010, and she has suddenly reappeared on the scene, but now in Atlanta in a completely different profession as a chef. She opened Heirloom Market BBQ with co-chef Cody Taylor and has won awards for their Korean barbeque pulled pork sandwich that showcases both its southern and Korean influences. The dinner table is arrayed with southern-style barbeque, and this sandwich, called the “Spicy Korean Pork,” is the traditionally regional barbeque with—you guessed it—kimchi on top. Along with Korean slaw and kimchi green tomatoes, this is the ultimate exemplification of southern influence – the American South and South Korea.

Photo courtesy of www.atlantamagazine.com

Photo courtesy of www.atlantamagazine.com

Next up on the scene was someone who’d taken Atlanta by such a storm that she has been hailed as the Kimchi Queen. Hannah Chung is a thirty-three-year-old ambassador and pathfinder for the Korean staple, most notably for her own brand of kimchi and pork belly buns. She was first found behind her own pop-up stands in markets all over Atlanta, where most of the vendors were there to sell their locally grown or made products. And then there was Hannah selling kimchi, the most foreign product there could possibly be, from its funny name to how it looked and smelled. And yet, she was local, the ultimate testament to how kimchi had made its home in this southern city.

Hannah Chung founded Simply Seoul in March of 2013. And she hasn’t stopped. Her kimchi jars have made their way into Whole Foods for its vegan and all-natural ingredients; her Atlanta kitchen is bustling to meet the demands for her catering service; and now Simply Seoul can be found at their new Ponce City Market location since September of 2015. If Atlanta had a spokesperson for kimchi, she would be it.

There are many other notables for kimchi-inspired foods all around Atlanta. James Martin, a graphic designer by trade, sells hotdogs out of his cart. I first encountered Doggy Dogg at a Root City Market event at Stove Works off of Krog Street in Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta. When I perused their menu, however, something that caught my eye was their “Sharpei dogg,” a beef dog topped with mustard and bacon bits, and—generously laid across the top?—Simply Seoul’s radish kimchi. And it was delicious. Coupled with the fact that they were selling at a Root City Market event—their tagline is “made in the South”—it was nice to see that kimchi had made its way even onto the food of America’s favorite pastime sport.

There are many others, of course. There’s Victory Sandwich Bar that serves white kimchi on their “Beeter” sandwich. Or there’s Fred’s Meat and Bread found in the Krog Street Market that serves a Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich, featuring kimchi as its main topping. There’s also Sobban in Decatur, Heirloom BBQ’s sister restaurant that further explores the boundaries where Korean and southern cuisine meet.

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the list of foods that kimchi can adorn, and looking at the direction that the trend is going, the future promises to unveil many more. Atlanta can boast that kimchi has made a permanent home in it, but that’s simply because the city is built in a way that has allowed immigrant cultures to take root and flourish in it. If Atlanta keeps this up, then there’s no telling how much creativity can sprout from its urbanity.

And that is a story worth telling.