Going 웰빙(well-being): Vegetarianism in South Korea

Going 웰빙(well-being): VegetarianismA typical, traditional Korean mealGoing 웰빙(well-being): Vegetarianism in South Korea    

by Jang Boo Lee (James), Seoul

   Well-being, organic, slow-food. These three words are the recent 'buzzwords' in Korean food marketing. As organic slow-foods that promote the well-being of the consumers are becoming all the rage these days in Korea, the number of vegetarian options in restaurants have been steadily increasing. As a vegetarian living in Korea, that is great news for me indeed. However, while I am happy about this recent change, I believe that Korea still has a long way to go.
   
       I decided to become vegetarian about 10 months ago, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. However, as fellow vegetarians might know, being vegetarian isn't easy, especially in a place where vegetarianism isn't very well-known.

       A typical, traditional South Korean meal usually consists of a bowl of rice, some kind of soup, and a couple side dishes, mostly vegetables - in other words, an ideal meal for us vegetarians. However, with Korea's economic growth and increased Western influence, meat has been gradually been taking the place of vegetables on dinner tables in Korea. As more people look for Western food and more meat, restaurants that serve traditional Korean food with only vegetables have become a rare sight. What's even more rare are Korean vegetarians.

   The number of vegetarian Korean friends I have are countable on one hand, and the looks I get when I tell my Korean friends that I am vegetarian are always the same: surprise and worry. Many tell me that I am their first vegetarian friend, and they worry that I am not getting enough nutrients. The many myths about vegetarianism are still prevalent in Korea, and most of my friends have no idea why I would voluntarily do such a thing to myself. Even those who eat mostly plant-based food rarely declare themselves 'vegetarian', and do it only for health-related reasons.

   I believe that becoming vegetarian is a great way to help the environment and speak out against the cruel practices often incorporated with meat production. Though we may have a long way to go, with proper awareness and support, I believe Korea can also become a vegetarian-friendly country.

Going 웰빙(well-being): Vegetarianism in South Korea  

Robin Wade