Pao cai v kimchi: Chinese, South Koreans clash on social media

In Korean cuisine, kimchi is a staple dish made of cabbage.
In Korean cuisine, kimchi is a staple dish made of cabbage.PHOTO: NYTIMES

SEOUL (REUTERS) - China's efforts to win an international certification for pao cai, a pickled vegetable dish from Sichuan province, is turning into a social media showdown between Chinese and South Korean netizens over the origin of kimchi, a staple Korean cuisine made of cabbage.

Beijing recently won a certification from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) for pao cai, an achievement China's state-run Global Times reported as "an international standard for the kimchi industry led by China".

South Korean media swiftly disputed such a claim and accused the bigger neighbour of trying to make kimchi a type of China-made pao cai.

The episode triggered anger on South Korean social media.

"Its total nonsense, what a thief stealing our culture!" a South Korean netizen wrote on Naver.com, a widely popular web portal in South Korea.

"I read a media story that China now says kimchi is theirs, and that they are making international standard for it, It's absurd. I'm worried that they might steal Hanbok and other cultural contents, not just kimchi," said Kim Seol-ha, a 28-year old in Seoul.

Some South Korean media even described the episode as China's "bid for world domination", while other social media comments flagged concerns that Beijing was exercising "economic coercion".

On China's Twitter-like Weibo, Chinese netizens were claiming kimchi as their country's own traditional dish, as most of kimchi consumed in South Korea is made in China.

South Korea's agriculture ministry on Sunday (Nov 29) released a statement saying mainly that the ISO approved standard does not apply to kimchi.

"It is inappropriate to report (about pao cai winning the ISO) without differentiating kimchi from pao cai of China's Sichuan," the statement said.