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Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism

Korean nationalism in terms of food is different from that of American culture introduced by American fast food. Fast foods are snacks that often entail slices of bread and meat especially for hamburgers (Watson). While meat and bread as taken as snacks in American fast-food culture, they are taken as main meals in Korean culture. Korean nationalism gives the two types of food a higher value and believes that the meals should be taken in more relaxed periods (Watson). When McDonald’s opened fast food joints in Korea, they never did well because they did not match the Korean attitudes.

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McDonald’s had to change the presentation of the meat and bread based on the Korean setting. Koreans saw hamburgers in terms of meat and bread which for them were not snacks but value meals (Watson). McDonald’s then had to change the snack to a value meal which would be taken as a main meal. The Koreans also had the perception that fast food joints are areas where people spend less money and stay for a long time while chatting (Watson). When McDonald’s introduced new value meal they also changed the Koreans perceptions about fast food.

When McDonald’s was introduced to Korean, Koreans were conflicted between their indigenous food, rice, and American food, hamburger. According to Watson, Koreans saw hamburgers as a symbol of imported American food. Thus, they felt that eating the snack was a way of abandoning their culture and adopting an imported one. However, Korean attitudes towards American fast food are based on economic status, gender, and political perspectives (Watson). While some Koreans ate the hamburgers to sample an international meal, others ate it because it was a cheaper snack. Adoption of fast food in the country also indicates generation differences whereby as the natives stick to rice, the new generation is going global consuming international food.

The introduction of foreign fast food in Korea was expected to adversely affect the patronage of the country’s food. Consequently, consumption of foreign food was a sign of vanity and conspicuous consumption (Watson). The Korean audience harshly received the fast food and felt that it posed unwanted competition for indigenous food sales. As the Koreans felt that different commodities carried with them social messages, some American food carries some. Sausage Gravy and Drop Biscuits are an example of American food with a social message. The two snacks are believed to have high energy hence are often eaten by people on horse ranches (Richardson). Riding horses consumes a lot of energy hence the sausages and biscuits are taken for breakfast in the ranches.

Barbecue is termed as a meal for social gatherings especially family occasions. The roasted meat is often taken by family get-togethers especially the Black American families during their celebration or holiday events (Richardson). Barbecues are believed to have a positive impact on football games. Most parking lots in a football game event are parked with barbecue joints for the game funs to celebrate wins. Alcohol, particularly beer is also a social drink for friends catching up about their life events. Mostly, beer is served in local bars where friends go to converse about their life happenings (Richardson). Beer is also supposed to be socially taken in the evening to calm drinkers’ minds after a day’s struggle. Most fast foods are meant to be eaten by busy people who are either traveling or working and have no time for large meals.

Work Cited

Richardson, Lance. “The 10 Foods Every Visitor to the US Needs to Try.” Traveller, 2019, Web.

Watson, James. “McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism.” Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, 2nd ed., Stanford UP, 2006, pp. 136-160.

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