Korean Food Responce To Comment
Strong> I was not planning to cover those parts, however my thoughts on each question:
Well Being - I liken it to the Health Food crazes in the US during the 70's-80's (or any diet fad) where alot of things were eaten because they were healthy, not because they are necesarily good. It is worth noting, as Todd aludes to, that part of this is has an element of patriotism to it. While in the health food crazes of the past, people ate forgien things, here in Korea they "rediscover" what was done in the past. This creates a conflict. On one side you have food that was consumned not becasue it was good, but because it was the only thing around. On the other you have these things with legnedary health benfits. I say legendary becasue in some cases its not proven, and, given what I mentioned above about the philosophy of food, health benfits were imagined so the consumption could be justified.
Drinking Foods - Most reason I hear are revolved around the idea that if you eat you can consume more alcohol. I cant say anything more specific in this case, although it is a general convetion in the west that high alcohol content drinks cut down on greasy mouth feel (er go why fatty beef gets the red wine which has higher alcohol on average than white). Since Koreans grill alot of fatty meats (Samgyupsal being a primary example), perhaps soju and such is an essental to cut down on the grease. If you extend the idea futher, it explains why chinese liquors are very high, with chinese food being greasy, while Japanese food with less greast also has drinks with lower alcohol content (mild sake being primary). As far as cold weather, it is even held in the west that a bit of brandy/whiskey/whatever keeps you warm on a cold day (remeber the carton sterotype of rescue St. Bernards in the moutains carrying a small cask of brandy?).
Drinking Culture - Koreans do tend to imagine lots of health benfits to soju, and again to the point of medical "studies" proving the point. Not related stongly, but I many Koreans have told me there doctors recomend smoking because its good for overall health (reduces stress). One of the primary "good for health" claims for alcohol is simular, it reduce stress.
Why Koreans tend to consume in excess, is frankly puzzling to me. Perhaps its a range of factors that encourage it.
A note on Wine
I think the growing Korean wine boom is at times puzzling and good thing. Puzzling because wine consumption tends to work against my concenptions on Korean purchasing styles. I am suprised since a ratio made of cost, alcohol percentage, and quality make it unlike what Koreans normaly perfer to consume. For example, soju is cheap, high percentage, and small volume (meaning it takes drasticaly less to get drunk) despite the quality. Beer is consumed slightly less, because it takes much more beer to get drunk (also IMHO this is why high-end imports and micro-brews fail in Korea, the cost does not make up for the the other quailties Koreans look for). Whiskey has a qualative advantage, coupled with its higher alcohol content wich makes up for the price.
Wine however is expensive, and the percentage of alcohol is much less then alterntives. Couple this with the fact how Koreans are resitant to forgien imports, and new expreinces, and I just have to scratch my head a Korea's growing wine consumption.
However one of the great things about I have noticed is that wine is one of the few alcoholic beverages that Koreans enjoy as a drink, not as a path to inebreation. I think this is a good thing.
(Yes I know some of you are angry at that last generalization, but its true in my opinion.)
Todd> No doubt Kimchi kills bacteria by itself. Its a picked vegtable for god sakes, its supposed to kill off things to make it last! However I dont get the logic of it all.
OK so if you place a piece of kimchi on the table, place SARS on it, it kills SARS. However since SARS is spread like a cold, not on Kimchi I fail to see how it will help, unless we wear breathing masks made of Kimchi and not cotton (Imagine a day with that smell right under your nose all day long).
Kimchi obviously is eaten. When it hits the stomach its exposed to some pretty strong acids wihich probaly destroy most, if not all, of the good chemicals, and helpful bacteria in it (Veggies are easily digested, unlike meat where undigetsted bits that could contain nasty stuff can survive the stomach cruciable). So how this now distroyed stuff can help me fight of SARS is a further mystrey.
As for you 100% OUR! Meat, I will discuss that in the future when I talk about forgein influnces.