Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Kimchi, a fermented vegetable dish with spicy seasoning, is a well-known Korean food that has been increasingly produced and consumed in China. Many Chinese kimchi manufacturers, who started their business by exporting kimchi to South Korea, have now turned their attention to the domestic market. The shift poses a new challenge: how can their kimchi accommodate the taste of Chinese consumers while appealing to the consumers’ curiosity about exotic, foreign “Korean” food? In this paper, I will examine how a Chinese kimchi manufacturer deals with this challenge through renovating the product design. Based on my ethnographic involvement with package design and product photography at a kimchi manufacturing company in China, I will discuss how discourses on “good design” and “Korean quality” are entangled with the material composition of kimchi as a commodity and social relations through which kimchi is produced, distributed and consumed. The paper will also interrogate how commodity product design reflects, or deflects, the imagination and aspiration for “better” lives, and how such desire and imagination is entangled with an understanding of the globalizing postcolonial orders of the world.