Traditional Beverages of Korea
Traditional Beverages of Korea
  • 박주희 기자
  • 승인 2010.10.04 11:40
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Traditional Beverages of KoreaKorean traditional beverages are staples of our lives. There are several beverages that are well-known such as sikhye which is a cinnamon and rice drink, and sujeonggwa which is a cinnamon punch with dried persimmon. These are winter beverages but many people misconstrue them as being for summer. However, there are many beverages we don't know very well such as baesook which is boiled pear in honey, and wonsobyeong which is honey water with rice cakes. Although we drink popular beverages we don’t have much knowledge about them. Since Korean traditional products are being introduced to a global generation, we should know more about how they are developed and understand the preservation of traditional beverages in Korea.Samguksagi is an ancient book that contains a record of our first soft drink. When Yu-Shin Kim, a general of the Silla Dynasty, was going to war, he ordered a soldier to serve jangsu. After he tasted the water he said "this water’s taste has not changed from the time I drank it before, so I think there are no accidents in this house." Then he went to war. Jangsu was that cold beverage and is made through lactic acid fermentation from grain and water that is added later. As the above story shows, traditional beverages have been part of our lives for a long time. Especially, during the period of the Three States, traditional beverages popularized adding dessert to the routine of our meals.These drinks also have many benefits. For example, sujeonggwa contains beta carotene, and it can help prevent cancer. It also has fructose. This is helpful in curing coughs, hiccups, and bloody discharges. Moreover, it makes the body warm. Schizandra can decrease pathogenic food poisoning and is excellent for recovering from fatigue and increasing liver function, so some companies are promoting it as a sports drink.However, many kinds of traditional beverages have disappeared for various reasons. One of the primary reasons is the increasing speed of peoples who lives in recent generations. Almost all Korean traditional food is based on the slow food concept, but nowadays many people prefer fast foods, and this has made our tastes more western. Other reasons are their complex processes and unusual flavors. Currently, there are 67 teas, 38 soups, 14 jangs, 7 suksus, 6 galsus, 31 punches, 10 sikhyes, and 3 sujeonggwas among others. There are around 180 different kinds of traditional beverages in existence today, but especially soups, jangs, suksus, and galsus are hard to find. In spite of this situation, teas, punches, sikhyes, sujeonggwas are still consumed widely by many people.In Korea, there have been many efforts to make Korean traditional food more global and this includes traditional beverages. It is often said that when people think of coffee they think of Brazil, when people think of tonic water they think of the U.S., and people think of tea when they think of Japan. Recently we have been working toward having Korea be recognized as the representative country of traditional health beverages. Here are some examples of globalized Korean health drinks. Some examples are sikhye, sungnyung, and japanese apricot beverage. In addition to these, there are many other kinds of traditional beverages that are being developed such as the powder of roast grain called misutgaru. One of the biggest obstacles to these products achieving sustainability is the vicious cycle of rising and declining markets. First, there is a boom after some commodities are first released, but many companies enter that market soon after. This causes price competition and oversupply. This is the main reason why many beverages disappear from the market. Despite this vicious cycle, almost all companies are trying to create proper marketing strategies to avoid this situation.Korean society as well as the Korean market has many problems. We no longer have a culture based on drinking traditional beverages for dessert, and many foreigners can't eat certain Korean foods. One specific example is skate fish. There are even some foods Koreans can't eat because of their odd taste. Other countries don’t have many of the ingredients needed to make Korean food as well; so many foreigners are not able to experience the original taste of Korean food. We have to export these specific ingredients. Finally, there is a lack of menus in Korean restaurants written in foreign languages. Insa-dong is a symbolic street of Korean tradition. We can learn about many problems with Korean traditional beverages by observing Insa-dong. There are 52 traditional beverage cafes and 3 coffee cafes. However, the sales at the coffee cafes are higher than those at the traditional beverage cafes. Also, foreigners account for 40% of the average sales per day. One of the main reasons why traditional beverages are not popular has to do with price. The price of a regular cup of coffee is around 3,300 won for a 360 ml cup. On the other hand, traditional tea usually costs between 5,000-6,000 won for a 400 ml cup, and traditional beverages normally cost between 6,000-7,000 won for a 500 ml serving. The traditional beverages have to become more popular if their prices are going to decrease.Sikhye, sungnyung, and Japanese apricot beverage are spreading throughout the world at the same time that Korean people are becoming more westernized. Today many of us prefer coffee or fizzy drinks over traditional beverages. Commercialization is important, but we shouldn’t use artificial processes and ingredients to enhance flavor in order to appeal to a wider market. Many companies add chemical additives to create more appealing flavors, but these additives are not beneficial and sometimes even damaging to our health. Now is the time when many of our traditional beverages are spreading throughout the world.Therefore, we should make an effort to preserve the health benefits of Korean traditional beverages during the globalization process. A professor of Daegu Health College, Deok-Hee Kim, stated that she has always been interested in traditional beverages, food, and tea, so YNO asked her about traditional beverages:"Korean traditional beverages have not been popularized yet. Only the older generations want to consume them for their health, and young people usually prefer coffee. Also many kinds of beverages contain chewing ingredients, so we can have fun chewing while drinking. Currently, there are many traditional food restaurants in Seoul, such as WE, VISION, and Dongbyungsangryun. VISION has many chain stores in Korea, and Dongbyungsangryun holds classes to learn how to make traditional food and fusion traditional beverages, such as adzuki bean shakes, as well as black and soybean shake. Schisandra, a barley dumpling covered with honey could expecially be commercialized easily because its preparation is very simple.”

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