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CORRECTIONS AND UPDATES: The Bibimbap Backpackers contacted us and informed us that they have been working separately from Seo Kyung Duk since 2012. Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the post, they also want to verify that they get no government support. They regret the ad they posted and will try harder to contemplate their promotions before posting.

From the Bibimbap Backpackers, who are a subsidiary of Seo Kyung Duk’s ForTheNextGeneration–you know, the guy behind the cheesy New York Times ads.

There is SOOOO much that is wrong with this ad, which they briefly posted on their Facebook page.

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For one thing–THAT IS NOT A BIG MAC!

That’s the first fib they told on this. The other one–a Big Mac is 550 kcal, not 1055!

When I mentioned this on their Facebook page, they said that they were talking about a Big Mac set. To people not familiar with how Korean fast food restaurants run, a “set” means a combo meal. Fries and drink. Again, not very forthcoming in the truth department.

But really, we’ve gone over this before. Don’t try to make traditional Korean food look healthy by comparing it to the worst of American junk food. That’s so dumb! Was this the school project of an 8-year-old?

I myself love bibimbap, which is why this ad infuriates me. It is trying to make bibimbap into something it’s not. It has its health benefits from a variety of high vitamin ingredients. But it’s hardly the food for calorie counters. As an exercise, I posted on their Facebook page all these other traditional foods from other countries, including America, which have less calories than bibimbap. There are quite a bit. Bibimbap is closer in calories to a Philly Cheesesteak than it is to a Cobb Salad.

This is another area that they just stubbornly can’t wrap their minds around. How do they think they can successfully promote Korean food by insulting other foods?

Yes, I said they were comparing it to junk food, but I have run into this time and time again that Koreans assume Americans only eat hamburgers and pizza all the time. One young man seriously asked me how many hamburgers Americans eat per day. It’s similar to that study that was posted (and taken down) on the Korean Food Foundation website that compared sperm counts of people eating traditional Korean food with people who ate burgers and fried pork cutlets. There’s this frog-in-the-well stereotype (I’m not saying racist stereotype) that Americans are fat because all American food is unhealthy. When in fact it’s because Americans are eating cheap junk foods and not exercising much. They have access to plenty of healthy traditional American cuisine, but they just choose not to eat it. Telling someone that bibimbap has less calories than a Big Mac ain’t gonna change the mind of someone who is craving a Big Mac.

The whole “Korean food is healthy” angle is such a dangerous and unproductive approach. For one thing, it’s not like there aren’t healthy options available to westerners, who are waiting for some Hansik white knight to rescue them. But also, Korean food is just as healthy and unhealthy as other traditional cuisines. It does use less oil and animal fats. Koreans are generally thinner than their western counterparts. But they also have the highest stomach cancer rate in the world.

After I posted a little of what I wrote up here, they took down their post. A pity. It was such a great model of how not to promote bibimbap.

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