Communal Kimjang

Communal Kimjang

I took part in Kimjang every year while growing up in Seoul. Many people will say Kimjang is hard work but for me it was a very fun and exciting time. Fun because family and friends got together, worked all day long (even sometimes outside in the cold) but also shared some good food and good times with each other. Our family was quite large back then and we lived in a home where our back yard actually had buried kimchi jars. If my memory serves me right, we pickled 100-200 cabbages at each winter which meant it was really a several day event - couple days for salting, pickling and rinsing the cabbages + prepare the yummy yangnyum and other ingredients and of course a whole day  

If my memory serves me right, I think we pickled 100-200 cabbages each winter which meant it was really a several day event – couple days to wash and salt the cabbages + prepare the yangnyum and other ingredients, another couple days to rinse and stuff the cabbages. We also always made several other kinds of kimchi too like Chonggak (ponytail radish) kimchi, Dongchimi, Bossam Kimchi and more so it was really a lot of labor of love. 

In 2016, I visited Seoul during Kimjang. The city hosted a volunteer event for anyone who was interested to join in and make kimchi for the community. I volunteered with several hundreds of people. The city provided premade kimchi paste and pre-salted heads of cabbage. I, along with the other volunteers, made countless pounds of kimchi on long tables in front of Seoul’s City Hall. After all the kimchi was made, batches were given to community members in need. Kimjang is always a personal reminder that all you really need for a Korean meal is kimchi and rice - which is why it is so important to share it with people in need during Kimjang. Growing up, my family and I would participate in our own Kimjang and make many batches of kimchi that lasted our extended family of 15 through the winter months, well into spring. 

JinJoo Lee is the author of the Kimchi Mari blog.