Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Korean Food Under Attack

The Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI -
kfri.re.kr) just launched "Korea Traditional Food Portal" (tradifood.net), an online database aimed at keeping track of the country's culinar tradition and know-how*.

Partners include the KISTI (Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information), the MKE (Ministry of Knowledge Economy), and the MOPAS (Ministry of Public Administration and Security)... So maybe it's not just about food.

Actually, this is a matter of national security : Korea is under attack.

As Korean food grows popular internationaly, the Government fears some culinar traditions may be "stolen" via the systematisation of patents on key ingredients or processes. Major food processing companies joined the party because attacks often come from foreign rivals : multinationals claiming patents on everything they can.

In the past, Japan was rumored to have tried to claim "Kimuchi" as its own invention. Yesterday, officials mentioned the case of Nestle who, back in 1983, patented a fermentation process very similar to gimchi across 14 countries. Korea was not ready and could only prevent a similar fate to strike home.

This trend is not new, but it's accelerating. Pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies roam remote areas of Africa or the Amazon trying to put a lock on traditional remedies, others want to patent DNA sequences... we're talking big bucks and grand larceny, but we're first of all talking food, everyday life, culture.

The best way to stop this is to expose reality as it is : fantastic diversity, rich tastes and flavors, ancient traditions, permanent innovations,
one of the World's top cuisine... and sooner or later, the thieves will get caught in the spotlight.

You can contribute to the effort if you want. And beyond the defensive move,
tradifood.net is an excellent initiative for all Korean food lovers : another stimulating, mouthwatering source of information.

Korea feasting !

* "
S. Korea defends intellectual property rights of its food" (Yonhap)

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