Banchan: Hansik's Dead, Jim

The doctor has officially pronounced it. The government’s Korean food globalization campaign was an expensive failure.  Well, maybe not a total failure. It did enrich the pockets of a lot of charlatans with government connections (we weren’t one of them, DARN those sour grapes!). I remember people calling us out on the blog as haters for pointing out what is finally coming into the light. There were so, so many things wrong with this campaign.

  • Non-centralized strategy, so no one knew what direction to go
  • Throwing money at people based on seniority and connections, whether or not they had any decent strategies on promoting Korean food beyond their own pet projects (remember the Ddeok expo?)
  • Promoting foods that foreigners had little interest in, like royal court cuisine
  • Hiring celebrities (Wondergirls, Super Junior, Bae Young Joon) who had nothing to do with food and were basically unknown outside of the Korean Wave Empire and giving us the atrocious music video “K-Food Party”
  • Letting yangban aristocrats like Cho Tae-kwon steer the campaign
  • The government-run Korean restaurant in New York City that didn’t go anywhere
  • Planning to support the overseas expansions of Kyochon (fried chicken), Mr. Pizza, and Kraze Burger–deep pocketed franchises that could fund their own expansions
  • Oh, and there was that program to create a world-famous celebrity chef in three months that was mostly attended by CEOs and corporate execvutives
  • And that questionable survey that put pumpkin porridge and pumpkin ddeok as top 12 foreign favorites

Recently, though, they started going on a more sensible track. The New York Korean restaurant guide was good. And I recently got my hands on an intro to Korean food book by them that almost sounded like it was written by us. (So, of course, it was good.) But then they come out with silly insecure articles like sperm counts on men eating traditional Korean food versus hamburgers (which they stereotype as being traditional “western” food). The jokers at VANK couldn’t be outdone, so they did the Mediterranean Diet vs. Hansik (HT John Francis Power).

In what culinary PR textbook does it work to promote your cuisine by telling your audience that their own cuisine is shite?

Seo Kyung-duk

Now, the government shouldn’t get all the blame. A lot of the most head-scratching campaigns were the brainchilds of self-declared PR “expert” Seo Kyoung-duk (NYT ads, WSJ ads, Times Square ads, Bibimbap Wanderers), who once said, “The day I close my eyes, I want my people to be as powerful as the Jews and the Chinese.”

Supposedly, he claims that he gets his funds from netizen donations and private sources–at least, now he does. Still there is no indication as to where he got the money to do his first full-page ads in the NYT on his visiting professor’s salary. I smell a rat.

Send your complaints to [email protected].


So anyway, here’s a quick summary of what’s been going on here and in Korean food this past week.



Our new brochures are in, and they look great!


2013-05-17 15.09.46Finally got to meet our editor Tammy and her husband Jeff in person. Yeah, can you believe it?


2013-05-17 15.36.03

We were at a new childhood nostalgia themed tea house in Insa-dong called Insa-dong Ppong Dabang 인사동 뽕 다방, where we were all a tad too big for our tables.


2013-05-16 16.35.02

Also had the privilege to hang out with Seattle food writer Jay Friedman. Here he is whacking the crap out of a Schneeball. Will talk about those later.


2013-05-16 16.58.07When opening a clothing store in Hongdae, make sure to have a brand that truly stands out.


2013-05-17 19.55.16

No truer words were said.


2013-05-17 21.24.30Wow, a double rip-off! So, you may think I am getting out my Jump-to-Conclusions Mat when guessing that this restaurant is copying its name from Hooni Kim’s Michelin-starred Danji in New York.  But then they also do a logo that’s a bit similar to Chef Kim’s other restaurant, Hanjan.

And get this–they’re an ITALIAN restaurant! I guess they’re going for the Porchetta Copycat Award.


2013-05-18 16.16.07Sighted at my local Paris Baguette. Keep in mind that this is a mass produced cake. Wow! Take that, Cake Wrecks!


2013-05-15 13.28.38Is my mind just dirty thinking what I’m thinking when seeing an ad like this?


News and Blogs


Young Radish Kimchi (Chong Gak Kimchi)

Easy Young Radish Kimchi (Kimchimari)

tofu 2

Crunch Spicy Tofu Bites (A Fat Girl’s Guide to Eating in Korea)

ddeonjang jigae

Vegan Doenjang Jjigae (Vegan8Korean)

White Onion Kimchi (TickTalk)


2013-05-14 18.55.43

Surprisingly good Capricciosa pizza at Cafe 오감 (Ogam) near Anguk Station, exit 1. Very cheesy and included fresh mushrooms and green olives.


2013-05-17 18.46.12

A branch of Kokoro Bento opened near the office. It’s my new favorite lunch stop.


Eat Your Kimchi does Korean BBQ Camping Style at a place called Outdoor Factory

Speaking of outdoors, check out this gorgeous BBQ spot in Paju

Portland’s The Original Pancake House is coming to Seoul (**NEWSFLASH** Just opened)

Bistro Petit’s Franco-Korean food by Chef Sung Park (Brooklyn)–GREAT VIDEO


Author: ZenKimchi

Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain," The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles,” and other projects in the UK, Canadan, and Australia featuring celebrity chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Gary Mehigan. Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide. He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.

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  • Joseph C. Kim

    It’s always difficult to convince people to try kimchi. Just smell it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.kim.35762241 Joseph C. Kim

    What I meant to say was that kimchi may smell strange to non-Koreans.

    • http://zenkimchi.com ZenKimchi

      That’s a concept the gov’t promoters couldn’t wrap their heads around. They assumed non-Koreans had a hard time with the spiciness.

    • Rachel

      It’s not about the smell. It’s the fact that it’s fermented. I think pretty much every Westerner I’ve known has tried and liked kimchi, save a few. Some people don’t like fermented food, and some are worried about kimchi being consumed morning, afternoon, and night may be doing to Korean’s stomachs (stomach cancer being the biggest concern).

      • http://zenkimchi.com ZenKimchi

        I think it’s both. Westerners freak out about fermentation while missing the fact that they eat fermented foods all the time. They confuse fermentation with rot.

        The smell, though, freaks a few people out. Even the U.S. Army had a term, to be in “deep kimchi.”

  • Quakerbd

    I think the foreigners of HBC and Kyungnidan will riot if another burger/pizza place opens…ALL they want is some freakin’ dalk galbi, the true #1 foreigner favorite!

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