Experience kimchi and taekwondo in Gangnam
By Kim Rahn
Several decades ago even when foreigners barely knew anything about Korean culture, they had still heard of two things: kimchi and taekwondo.
There are two places committed to promoting the most famous Korean food and martial art, both located in Gangnam District ―Pulmuone Kimchi Museum and Kukkiwon, or World Taekwondo Headquarters.
A group of about 20 Japanese travelers were looking around the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum, located on the second basement level of COEX Mall in Samseong-dong, when this reporter visited the place late last month.
These days the museum is more popular among foreign tourists than among Koreans, especially the Japanese who are known to enjoy Korean foods including the spicy, fermented vegetable dish.
Earthenware storage pots at the entrance are displayed from various eras of Korean history to show how kimchi is stored and fermented.
The history of kimchi can be viewed, from the three ancient kingdoms era to Joseon Kingdom period, explaining since when Koreans had kimchi, how people made kimchi in the past, what they called it, and why the taste of kimchi differs according to regions.
While foreigners are usually familiar with only one type of kimchi, the one made of Chinese cabbage, the museum displays more than 80 kinds of kimchi using various ingredients reflecting different origins.
Also available is information on kimchi-making and fermentation, as well as why kimchi is healthy _ it is rich in vitamins and minerals, is anti-carcinogenic and effective in lowering cholesterol level, has much lactobacilli, etc.
The highlight and most popular section of the museum is the kimchi tasting corner where visitors can sample several kinds of kimchi from mild to spicy varieties.
Japanese traveler Besshio Katsuhiko said before visiting the museum, he thought there was only one kind of kimchi. “I learned there are so many kinds of kimchi. I tried stuffed cucumber kimchi and it tasted really good,” he said.
Another traveler, Yuko Ogata, said kimchi is available at almost all supermarkets in Japan.
At the museum, she learned a kimchi recipe. “Even though I used to enjoy eating kimchi in Japan, it was the first time for me to see how kimchi is made. It is so difficult! I don’t think I can make kimchi myself,” she said.
The museum opens between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. It closes on Mondays and Seollal and Chuseok holidays. Admission is 3,000 won. For more information, visit www.kimchimuseum.or.kr.
Mecca of taekwondo
The traditional Korean martial art, taekwondo, has been widely known and taught by Korean masters to avid learners across the world.
To taekwondo fans, Kukkiwon, or the World Taekwondo Headquarters, is like a Mecca where they would like to visit at least once in their lifetime.
“Korean masters in foreign countries usually take their pupils to Kukkiwon to show them the taekwondo spirit and let them know more about Korea, the country where the martial art originated,” staffer Lee Ah-jin of the headquarters said.
The main building of the headquarters is a gym where competitions, promotion tests and masters’ training sessions take place.
Promotion tests for higher “dan,” or level in the martial art, are held four times a year. “The higher-grade tests are available only at Kukkiwon, not at regional branches. So those wanting to advance, even those in foreign countries, must come here to take the test,” she said.
Such events are not held every day. Those wanting to see a taekwondo performance are advised to visit on Saturdays when a regular taekwondo demonstration is presented between 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. for visitors of Gangnam City Tour.
In a separate building there is a museum displaying taekwondo-related posters, medals, trophies and taekwondo gear. It opens from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Kukkiwon holds another regular demonstration at Namsangol Hanok Village in central Seoul on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Visitors have the chance to learn the basic moves of taekwondo there. For more information, visit www.taekwonseoul.org.
Kukkiwon is accessible from Exit 8 of Gangnam Station and Exit 4 of Yeoksam Station of line No. 2, or Exit 5 of Sinnonhyeon Station of line No. 9. For more information about Kukkuwon, visit www.kukkiwon.or.kr.