Joe in Newsweek Korea PLUS L.A. BBQ Festival

An essay I wrote on the Korean government’s ham-handedness in promoting Korean cuisine overseas has been published in this week’s Newsweek Korea. It’s mostly about how the government and some private entities aren’t even bothering to ask foreigners what they like.  They’re forcing what they themselves like onto the market, like expensive royal court cuisine and ddeokbokki/”topoki” (see “Agriculture Ministry is Officially NUTS“).

With impeccable timing to prove my point, reader Edward brings to my attention a post by Food Comma that L.A. has just finished a Korean BBQ festival and contest.  I’ve been making the rounds to any Korean who would bother to listen to me that Korea, with all its festivals, really needs a BBQ festival.  Can you believe they don’t have any?  They have a giant festival for rice cakes but not one for BBQ?

One Korean friend replied, “Who would be interested in a BBQ contest?”


I didn’t find any official number for the crowd, but there were 30-minute to 1-hour waits, and food stalls ran out of meat.  The L.A. festival also had a Korean BBQ marinating demonstration and a Choco-Pie eating contest.  And you can’t have a Korean festival without those great organizational skills.

We had a great time at the cook-off but I gotta say it wasn’t especially well organized or executed. In fact we learned that the health inspector didn’t even give the OK to start serving food until an hour and half after the gates opened.

I know I’m coming off negative in this post, but I’m actually positive.  I just want to yell to these Korean food promoters, “Wake up!  Your food’s great.  No one cares about ddeokbokki.  Court cuisine is too bland and too Japanese looking.  You’re blessed with some of the best BBQ in the world.  Run with it!”


ZenKimchi Dining in the Korea Herald

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10 thoughts on “Joe in Newsweek Korea PLUS L.A. BBQ Festival”

  1. I was there. It was PACKED!!! Waiting an hour for Korean bbq? I thought that was nuts.

    It was put together by a bunch of Korean Americans who had day jobs so I can see how it appeared a little disorganized.

    5,000 people were expected to come out but it looked more than double that. It was insane. The ironic this is that there was no Korean alcohol. Coors and Blue Moon. This white guy next to me said, “Hey, what’s up with that? Where’s the Hite and soju?”

  2. Thank you for saying that out loud. I said in my kalbi video on youtube that Koreans are the “undisputed masters of Far East Asian BBQ”. That is their strongest point (besides kimchi). The royal cuisine emphasis might work in Japan but not in the rest of the world.

  3. Joe, that’s some great points. You know what the ironic thing is? Korean bbq popularized Korean food in Japan. Yep. No government promotion campaign, no initiative into hanshik. Just a bunch of zainichi Koreans trying to eck out a living by selling thrown away grilled cow guts to protein starved Japanese evolves into yakiniku. All yakiniku joints in Japan also serve kimchi, pajon and bibimbap no matter how Japanese-like they look from the outside. Yakiniku joints are the most numerous and popular chain restaurants in Japan nowadays.

    Korea does NOT know what they have and to me that’s a little sad. Go talk some sense into them Joe!

  4. Joe congrats on getting published in Newsweek. You are absolutely right about a Korean BBQ festival. A Korean BBQ festival would be huge not only in Korea but if the government promoted it overseas as well.

  5. I know I’m commenting on this kinda late, but it’s the first time I have looked at this post. There is a cute Korean woman named Maangchi who cooks on her website named after her. She is how I’m learning to cook Korean food in addition to my cookbooks. Many of her recipes are not available in those said cookbooks which seem to cover only the same things over and over. The Korean board of tourism gave her a computer and other neat gadjets in honor of her public service. Check her out at, or on youtube. Very tasty stuff!


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