No, you can’t call kimchi “pickled vegetables”

More from the front lines of the Sino-Korean Kimchi War. The South Korean government wants the Chinese to stop calling kimchi “pickled vegetables” in their own language.

The South Korean government has apparently decided that kimchi should no longer be referred to as pàocài 泡菜 (“pickled vegetables”) in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but should have its own name to distinguish it from other types of pickled vegetables.

So, what do they want the Chinese to call it?

For kimchi, the Koreans have decided that the new Chinese name is going to be xīnqí 辛奇. The Chinese are not accustomed to this and some have suggested that it doesn’t make sense, since xīn 辛 is usually construed as meaning “bitter; suffering; laborious” and qí 奇 means “strange; odd; queer; rare.”

A treasure trove of great English combinations there, but I’ll leave that alone.

According to Chinese language professor Victor Mair, the name might not actually be such a bad choice –other than the poor taste of asking a billion people to change the name of something with good taste.

Upon reflection, however, xīnqí 辛奇 may not be such a bad choice after all, since xīn 辛 is often used to describe the spicy/sour flavor of foods like kimchi and may even be seen on packages for Korean instant noodles. Moreover, qí 奇 may be thought of not merely as “strange; odd,” but also “wonderful; marvelous; mysterious.”

As far as naming goes, I’ve learned to accept that I am from a wondrous place called “Miguk.” As well as I accept the fact that my first name means “pig” in Malay. (Which is why, when preparing to meet my ex-gf’s parents, I suddenly became, “Robert.” Robert? Who could go through life with that for a name?)

For more on the kimchi clash, as well as “naming victories” for the Koreans in the Chinese mother tongue, check out the article in Slate.

You can pick up one of these bad boys here.
You can pick up one of these here. (Chick-magnet Duck Dynasty beard optional)
  • dlbarch

    I think everyone in East Asia should just agree on the use of キムチ and that would solve everything, ’cause who possibly could have any issues with that?


  • Bobby McGill

    I like characters that when put together look like a “camping ahead” sign.


    Korea to China: Call Kimchi this. China to Korea: Piss off.


    it reminds of that Simpsons episode where Fred Quimby’s nephew is trying to get the waiter to say Chowder without the French accent.
    Freddy: Hey! What the hell is this?
    Waiter: [French accent] It’s a bowl of shaudere [“chowder”], sir.
    Freddy: Wait a minute, come here. What did you call it? Say it loud enough so everyone can hear. Cone on, say it…
    Waiter: Ahem. Shaudere [“chowder”].
    Freddy: [raucous laughter] Shau-dere? Shau-dere? It’s “chowdah.” Say it right!
    Waiter: [pause] Shaudear [“chowder”].
    Freddy: [laughter] Come back here! I’m not through demeaning you.

  • pawikirogii

    this reminds me of when the chinese told us to stop calling beijing ‘peking’. that irritated me since they were trying to tell me how to speak my own language! f*ck myanmar! i’m sticking with burma.

  • redwhitedude

    We could have the Korean version of the Tomatina.

  • cactusmcharris

    Sheer effrontery is not uninteresting, but call me when they’re tossing egg foo yong at the Chinese embassy. That’s always lots of fun.

  • SeoulGoodman

    I see the belittling of the French in American media as a rather trite and juvenile attempt at removing from collective consciousness the fact that the Brits may have won the American Revolution if it wasn’t for their contribution. (Besides, chowder is “ragoût” in French).

  • SeoulGoodman

    How do you say “linguistic imperialism” in Korean, you know, what Koreans were subjected to for hundreds of years? Yes, sometimes I wonder if Korean politicians get irony.

  • redwhitedude

    But in that case they were right. It is Beijing not Peking which is what it used to be called.

  • redwhitedude

    Huh? This is over one word and you are crying “imperialism”. If you want linguistic imperialism look at what Japan tried to do with Korea in 1910-1945.

  • pleiades.emperor

    Korean people does not own the Chinese language. How can Koreans tell Chinese to change their language.

    泡菜 (“pickled vegetables) is nothing wrong.

  • pleiades.emperor

    Burma and Myanmar are actually from the same thing.

    In Chinese and Japanese, the country has been written as 緬甸 which is actually more on the Myanmar side for more than a century.

  • ChuckRamone

    What’s the difference? It all sounds like “ching chong ching chong” to me.

  • wangkon936

    It’s Mumbai, not Bombay…. kekeke…

  • kaizenmx

    you must not be very bright guy.

  • redwhitedude

    That is different. Beijing and Peking are two distinct names. Mumbai and Bombay could be explained as correcting the spelling.

  • redwhitedude

    It isn’t changing the language it is changing a word. Whether Koreans have business to change the word that’s the problem.

  • redwhitedude

    Maybe you shouldn’t comment on it if you are that clueless.

  • ChuckRamone

    I was just kidding. Geesh.

  • redwhitedude

    Well, indicate it. It’s hard to see that if there people who don’t know you.

  • yangachibastardo

    Well guys let me add on a personal note that for a Romance language speaker learning an agglutinative one is really demanding

  • redwhitedude

    I also speak a Romance language.

  • yangachibastardo

    You’re Korean ? Sorry if i ask you flat-out (feel free to not disclose it), from what i understand you speak castillano which has a grammar and a syntaptical structure almost indistinguishable from Italian (vocabulary much less so)…was it really hard to learn ? I mean i can hardly think of 2 more distant languages than Korean and any Romance idiom.

    Even if the phonetic of Korean, with alternations of vowels and consonants sound somewhat familiar to a Southern European person and the tu-lei/usted/vous thing may be considered an equivalent of the levels of speech found in Korean

  • redwhitedude

    Yup. I am Korean. I picked it up when I was little so I had it “easy”. Italian portuguese and Spanish are so close that they can be understood. I feel more comfortable with English and Spanish than Korean.

    I find phonetically Spanish and Korean are closer than English. I find Korean is much more elaborated in that are about tone of speech because Koreans are very conscientious of social standing than Europeans. On the flip side romance languages assign gender to practically everything from people to objects.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Beijing and Peking are also different spellings of the same Chinese name.

  • redwhitedude

    Oh sorry. My mistake I was thinking of something else.

  • bballi

    you sir, need a sack of door knobs



  • redwhitedude

    What do you mean by what?

  • GerryBevers

    I have not eaten any pickled vegetables since leaving Korea (with a “K”) or even written much on Takeshima in the Sea of Japan..

    Koreans seem to be lacking in the art of persuasion. Demanding someone do something often has the opposite effect.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Again, I was going to not join in because I cannot be bothered to look up and link to the relevant reference, but this is not the full story, the actual story goes back to the Chinese reaction to the Korean attempt to get Kimchi (and failing that only Kimjang, the act of Kimchi-making) registered as some sort of UNESCO heritage, which funnily a Japanese acquaintance told me about (she must have read it in some Japanese media), she said how funny it is that the Chinese want to claim Kimchi as their own when everybody knows its Korean.. ,

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I think that perhaps as early as WWI and certainly by the end of WWII, Americans collectively got over any sense of owing the French and might have even flipped the balance in the ledger of accounts.

  • SeoulGoodman

    That’s it, respond to an inconvenient truth with threats of violence.

  • SeoulGoodman

    When did the US enter WW1 and WW2, by the way? Yeah, whatever.

  • SeoulGoodman

    You don’t read too well, do you?

  • SeoulGoodman

    You clearly don’t have a clue what linguistic imperialism is.

  • SeoulGoodman

    Didn’t Korea already earn the ISO food standards for kimchi?

  • pleiades.emperor

    I think there were some misunderstandings here.

    I dont think Chinese say Kimchi is Chinese. Perhaps.

  • pleiades.emperor

    Again, Japan!!!

  • pleiades.emperor

    A word is a part of the language.

  • Robert Koehler

    Netouyo Alert.

  • pleiades.emperor

    Then what are you?

  • ssamzi

    The article is misleading. Wait, is it even an article? It seems like a blog post. The Korean government just registered the new Chinese name for Kimchi as a trademark in China and Korean Kimchi products exported to China will use that name.

    They also spent a year with a Chinese consulting company to come up with the name.

  • bumfromkorea

    Yeah, I’m not sure if anyone told China to change the word for kimchi. I did find an article talking about the exporting company registering “shinchi” as a trademark though. That blog article’s title is very, very misleading.

  • wangkon936

    Yeah, but that’s not what you had originally said. At least a slippery slope fallacy.

    Koreans aren’t asking the Chinese to change their language wholesale. They are requesting that the Chinese use a different word for a Korean culinary product. This isn’t a national sovereignty issue as the Koreans are not requesting the Chinese to use a Koreanized word for dim sum or mapo tofu.


    I was replying to an earlier comment, but I’ll move on to your recent comment about phonetics.
    When you say “phonetically “, do you mean what is only heard as one imagines not having a knowledge of the sound of any language?

  • redwhitedude

    I meant that they sounds made is closer. Like if you try to try to get a Korean to pronounce say “a” like they say in Spanish it is far easier to match it up to 아, then to the way it is pronounced in English.

  • redwhitedude

    Why he is the boss of this blog.

  • George Deftereos

    This sounds like Korea trying to tell the English speaking world that Sea of Japan should be called East Sea because that is what it is called in Korea. Though it makes me wonder why those same people aren’t trying to make everyone call the Yellow Sea the West Sea since that is what they call it in Korean? C’mon guys, it isn’t even yellow! But it certainly is west of something.

    When I was studying Chinese the name for Seoul was 漢城 (or 한성) as that was what it was called since the Joseon dynasty. (漢 means Chinese). It was changed in 2005 to 首尔 as that is what Seoul more closely sounds like in Chinese (also means ‘capital’). Still, most Chinese call Seoul by its traditional name.

    Reminds me of the Constantinople/Istanbul issue. While both are Greek words, the official name in Greek is Constantinople and no matter what some people in Greece may want, Turkey is going to call the city whatever they like.

    I’ll just leave this here

  • WMunny

    I told my Korean gf that I wanted to go out for sushi. She said, “please call it cho bap”. I told her, “not the Korean raw fish, I want to go out for SUSHI.”
    She said, “still, it’s cho bap”.

  • wangkon936

    Forget the Chinese! It’s the Brits that will ruin kimchi!

  • wangkon936
  • redwhitedude

    Just imagine if the Germans made a stink over cars made anywhere else but in Germany.

  • redwhitedude

    The question is will the Koreans make a stink over that it is not authentic Kimchi or be overcome with the “do you know kimchi?” nationalism.