Monday, September 3, 2012

A History of Chocolate in Korea

Chocolates in the Daehan Empire

Chocolate originally came to Korea during the time of the Daehan Empire. At that time chocolate was unfamiliar "food" and symbolized the duality of something of the barbarians and yet as a symbol of accepting western culture. Western culture was culturally rejected as something foreign but there was always the allure that it brought many conveniences and luxuries for the yangban class and the king and his court, and so chocolate was one of many items tried and, while not becoming popular, was still viewed as something luxurious and therefore desirable.

a movie clip recreation of Daehan dining ... with chocolates

Chocolates from the Korean War to the 1950s

Not until the US Forces who came to the Korean peninsula with chocolates (and candy and other cultural unknowns) did chocolate become "accessible" to the common people. Actually it wasn't all people who had access but chocolates and candies were something that soldiers passed out, especially to the young children who flocked around them and reminded the lonely soldiers of kids back home. At this time, the wealthy people were starting to enjoy chocolates, but all chocolates in Korea were import items and therefore scarce.
US Soldier passing out chocolates to kids

US Army issue chocolate bars

Chocolates in the 1950s and 1960s

Sometime in the 1950s Korea developed and marketed its own chocolate bar. The second chocolate bar was the 나하나 chocolate and with it came popularization. Chocolate now was made accessible to the common people. The bar was an entrepreneurial adventure that was well received by the public and soon afterwards other food companies were entering into the Korean chocolate market. One of these was Ghana chocolate launched in 1975 and which, surprisingly while other chocolate bars and companies faded out with the decades, Ghana chocolate is still marketed today ... and with the same packaging! Chocolate became a symbol of Korea's quickly growing food industry and the booming economic growth of Korea. Now, people who in former times had struggled to just eat, could actually enjoy the former elitest "food" as they were not limited to agricultural work for just maintaining life but they were working at jobs which brought in income for buying and enjoying market foods. In the 1950s and 1960s chocolate bars became an unspoken symbol of changing traditions and more cultural acceptance of western culture.

Korea's second chocolate bar

Ghana chocolate - developed in 1975 and still sold today with the same packaging!

Chocolates Today

Chocolates made in Korea now has grown into a full fledged booming industry. Chocolates are marketed on holidays, given fancy packagings and wrapping to help with marketability, come in all possible shapes and colors, or, so it seems. Chocolates are an expression of love, friendship, a time to celebrate, or just something to be shared with friends. Though introduced from the US, chocolates have taken on a culture and symbolic meaning that is so loaded with symbolic contextual meaning that Americans understand the "food" but cannot fully grasp the Korean chocolate culture which has evolved around it.

Various packaging and decorating of chocolates

Park So Mi and Park Su A did a marvelous job organizing this history.
Very enjoyable and thank you for letting me post your work here.

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