“Hallyu” or “The Korean Wave” refers to the sweeping popularity of South Korean culture that has captivated and taken ahold of various parts of the world since the 1990s. Initially set in motion by the export of K-pop and soap operas to close-by East Asian countries, the cultural phenomenon has expanded its scope to stir up interest in other parts of Korean culture such as fashion, lifestyle, and history. More recently, Seoul is seeing one-day Korean culinary classes sprouting up across the city, aimed at providing foreigners with a more immersive cultural experience through their own takes on bibimbap or tteokbokki.
One such place is run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which is offering two-hour Korean culinary classes twice every month. In the class, students first watch a demonstration by the chef, and attempt to replicate the dish afterwards. Upon completion, they gather around and enjoy the assortment of mandu (Korean-style dumplings), kimbap (Korean sushi), and other delights that they made themselves. To keep things interesting, it runs a different theme each month, depending on what is trending at the time. Previous themes included replicating popular dishes shown on reality shows such as Youn’s Kitchen.
Other cooking studios have come up with clever ways to reach out to more tourists through teaming up with popular travel apps such as TripAdvisor. “I Love Hansik” is one of such companies, which offers classes not only in English, but also in Japanese and Chinese to appeal to more tourists. They also cover a wide range of dishes, from more traditional ones to homely street foods.
More and more foreigners are signing up to try their hands at stirring up their favorite Korean dishes, and various testimonials of participants indicate that the classes are a huge success. The cooking classes are not only acting as places to immerse themselves in the Korean culinary culture, but also a social meetup location to meet new people from various walks of life.