By Rick Phillips, Public Relations Manager- Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles

The Kimchi Warrior Animation Series recently premiered at the Korean Consulate’s Cultural Center in Los Angeles, offering Angelinos a chance to marvel at Korea’s newest super hero and a chance to taste various recipes of Korea’s most popular dish following the screening.

Operated by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea, the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles has been the axis of Korean heritage in Southern California for over thirty years. KCCLA offers everyone a chance to experience the rich traditions and history of Korea through specialized programs, sponsored events, and multiple learning resources via a library, a museum, an art gallery, and a performing arts/cinema theatre.

The Korean Cultural Center decided to use anime as a form of cultural outreach because anime has mass appeal to people of all ages, all walks of life, and different ethnic backgrounds. There are so many different styles and storylines involved with anime and each decade more and more people become infatuated with it.  Not only do kids love it, but adults ranging from their twenties to their fifties come from a generation that grew up with it (in some form or another) when it became popular in the United States in the early 1970s.

The Kimchi Warrior
In order to appreciate the significance of this Korean super hero, one must not only be familiar with the health benefits of Kimchi, but also be sensibly conscious of the world-wide pandemics (ranging from Swine Flu to Mad Cow Disease) that have plagued the earth over the past fifteen years.

“The Kimchi Warrior” is a unique blend of martial arts, comedy, and promotes good health. Based on the premise of Popeye, our hero obtains supernatural strength by consuming the most prominent Korean dish to defend mankind from the world’s most notorious diseases (i.e. The Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Malaria, SARS etc.) Each episode a new “disease character” is summoned by Evil Lord of Disease to wipe out the human race. Under the tutelage of the clairvoyant Kimchi Master, the Kimchi Warrior is sent to fight and ultimately annihilate the disease with a different “ingredient weapon”.

The Kimchi Warrior humorously, and in a form familiar to most cultures, demonstrates the importance of Korea’s national condiment (dish), the fermented cabbage known as Kimchi.  Moreover, the Kimchi Warrior series takes an important Korean dish (condiment) which is both central to most Korean meals and unique to the Korean peninsula and introduces it to a new audience as an anthropomorphized hero.  It humorously demonstrates the importance of the dish to Korean culture and identity in a manner that makes the dish intriguing and yet familiar to a new audience.

The Kimchi Warrior is the defender from enemies (diseases and plagues) that global population is familiar with, and concerned about (i.e. Swine Flu, Malaria, SARS). Since most people in the world collectively would want to protect themselves from such diseases, the Kimchi Warrior has universal appeal because he is symbol of good health and the protector of the body from harmful maladies.

Meanwhile, the Kimchi Warrior is a positive icon of Korea and a symbol of Korean cultural diplomacy through the series association with Korean’s most popular dish, which is deemed one of the healthiest foods in the world.

Kimchi Diplomacy
Now, one might ponder “what exactly is Kimchi?” Omnipresent in Korean cuisine and served in hundreds of variations, Kimchi is basically a dish made of vegetables, such as cabbage or radishes, which are salted, seasoned, and stored in sealed containers to undergo lactic acid fermentation. It is loaded with vitamins A, B, C, B1 and B2, red pepper, garlic, carotene, protein, carbohydrates, and calcium. Kimchi also contains- an anti-biotic that suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria, lowers cholesterol, manages blood pressure, promotes intestinal health, and often protects the body from harmful diseases.

Now is it possible that Kimchi can protect the body from noxious maladies such as H1N1 or malaria with one or more servings? Probably not, but the message is clear and simple: Korea is the producer of one of the healthiest foods in the world and they have statistics to prove it. South Korea’s obesity and diabetic rate is the lowest on the planet. Just pay a visit to any Korean super market and read the ingredients in most of the dishes. There are no chemicals, no preservatives, none of those polysyllabic words on the label that we often don’t even bother to try to pronounce, and furthermore — you would need a scientist to interpret the terrifying reality of what they actually do to the body! If you want to know why Americans have the highest disease rates among all of the industrialized nations? Look no further – the proof is on the label.  Koreans have known this for years; Westerners are just starting to figure it out.

Good cuisine has played a major role cultural diplomacy from the very beginning of civilization, when recipes and other victuals were exchanged between nations of the world. Meanwhile, many peace treaties and trade agreements were ratified because of evening feasts that satisfied both the stomachs and the hearts of hungry emissaries.

In the case of Korea’s kimchi diplomacy, people can learn that there is a food out there that has actually been proven to protect the body from harm. Koreans are very aware of nutrition and consider food as medicine, where here in the West we go to the local pharmacy for over-the-counter drugs that can be risky. Most importantly, through cultural awareness created by the Kimchi Warrior and kimchi diplomacy efforts, foreign publics can also learn that Korea has a long and wonderful culture and history that should be shared with the world, which in turn would help to create greater understanding and acceptance of the Korean people.

For more information about the Kimchi Warrior go to www.kimchiwarrior.com

The Kimchi Warrior was created and produced by Young Man Kang. This essay was written by Rick Phillips – writer of Episodes 2-5 and Public Relations Manager at the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles [email protected]

Episode I     Kimchi Warrior vs. Swine Flu
Episode II    Revenge of the Mad Cow
Episode III   Kimchi Warrior vs. Malaria
Episode IV    Sons of Swine Flu
Episode V     Sons of Swine Flu – Part 2

References: Treelight/Eric Armstrong. All rights reserved.