Kimchi wars, the sequel: Baidu said samgyetang originated in China and now Korean netizens are up in arms over the traditional ginseng chicken soup dish

Samgyetang is the latest subject of debate among Chinese and Korean netizens. Photo: Trade Korea
Following recent furores over tteokbokki and bibimbap, now some Chinese netizens are claiming that samgyetang, or traditional Korean ginseng chicken soup, originated in China, in turn upsetting many Koreans who are tired of the neighbouring country’s cultural provocations.

On Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, on March 30, samgyetang was described as a chicken soup dish originating from China’s Guangdong province, which was later introduced to Korea. It adds that the dish later became one of the most iconic dishes beloved by Korea’s royal family members.
Samgyetang. Photo: Korea Tourism Organization

But according to South Korea’s Rural Development Administration, Koreans have been making a soup with chicken since at least the Joseon era (1392-1897). Samgyetang was popular among wealthy Koreans during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) and they enjoyed the chicken soup with ginseng powder. It became more popular among ordinary people following the 1960s.

Professor Seo Kyung-duk of Sungshin Women’s University, a self-proclaimed “publicist” for Korea, who has volunteered to correct inaccurate understandings of Korean history overseas, said he sent a complaint email to Baidu, urging the portal to revise the wrong information about the food.

Samgyetang. Photo: @SeoulJournal/Twitter
He said: “Baidu has stirred up controversy by distorting history with samgyetang, as it did with kimchi recently … So I immediately sent an email to Baidu saying, ‘China doesn’t even use the Harmonized System (HS) – or international names and numbers designated for traded products – for samgyetang, while Korea classifies the food with the number, 1602.32.1010.” He added that he urged the website to revise the information to provide the proper information to Chinese netizens.

Some Koreans claimed that there should be no issue, as samgyetang is simply Korea’s dish. “There should be no feud over the origin of the food, because it is made in Korea. The more the controversy spreads, the more it helps the Chinese claim that the dish is theirs,” wrote one netizen.

The controversy came after the website and some Chinese social media influencers also claimed some Korean dishes as theirs over the last few months.

Last year, China’s state-run Global Times newspaper claimed that China had led the international standard for pickled vegetables, including kimchi, following approval of the pickled food paocai by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Even though paocai in Chinese refers to a Chinese dish that is in many ways different from kimchi, the newspaper appeared to imply the two were the same, which upset many Koreans, while Korean called the stance akin to “stealing a cultural asset”.

Last year, Baidu also claimed that kimchi was made in China. The website removed the claim after Seo filed a complaint, but then added it again.

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This article originally appeared on Korea Times.

  • Following furores over kimchi and bibimbap – thanks to YouTubers Hamzy and Li Ziqi, and Song Joong-ki’s K-drama Vincenzo – the latest debate is over samgyetang
  • Chinese Google equivalent Baidu says the dish originates from Guangdong, but Koreans say they have been making ginseng chicken soups since the Joseon era