Kingston’s Korean heritage to take centre stage as borough declares International Kimchi Day

A bowl of kimchi
A bowl of kimchi

Kingston’s celebrations of its Korean heritage are set to get even bigger this year as the council prepares to declare 22 November as Kimchi Day.

The Royal Borough of Kingston will become the first place in Europe to join Korea and a growing number of states across the USA to mark Kimchi Day. This commitment will see Kimchi Day celebrated annually in the borough, starting this year. 

Kingston Council has been working with local community organisation the Korean British Cultural Exchange on this initiative. Many other organisations, including the Korean Resident Society, the North Korean Residents Society and the London Korean School have pledged their support. 

New Malden Village ward councillor, Cllr Robert Kim said he was delighted to support the idea and paid tribute to the growing popularity of Korean culture - known as Hallyu or the Korean Wave: 

“As a councillor for New Malden Village, the largest Korean community in Europe, I am delighted to celebrate our cultural diversity and heritage through the Royal Borough of Kingston’s proclamation of Kimchi Day.

“I hope we can make New Malden another Gangnam in Europe where Hallyu fans can experience and enjoy Hallyu, integrate the talents of the Korean community and bring enhanced prosperity and cultural exchange between two countries.”

Kimchi, pickled, fermented vegetables, is the national dish of Korea. In 2013, UNESCO recognised Kimjang, the process of preparing kimchi, as part of Korea’s intangible cultural heritage. The date marks the 22 health benefits of the food and the various different ingredients used to make Kimchi. The dish is also traditionally prepared around November, ahead of winter. 

Old Malden ward councillor, Cllr Elizabeth Park confirmed the significance of kimchi in Korean food culture: 

“I am a lover of kimchi. I eat it every day and for every meal. No kimchi means no hot spices in my life. I am so proud of being Korean, and to be able to share our magical kimchi with the whole world. Kimchi is a staple part of my life and there is no meal that it does not compliment. I believe it should be shared with the whole world.”

Leader of Kingston Council Andreas Kirsch said: 

“Local people are immensely proud of our borough’s rich diversity and multiculturalism and recognise the fantastic contributions of communities from all over the world. With New Malden home to the largest Korean community in Europe, there is already a well-established tradition of celebrating Kingston’s Korean and wider East and South East Asian heritage through events such as the annual Kingston Korea Festival - which includes the Korean Harvest Festival and the Kimjang Festival.  

“The announcement that the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames is to become the first place in Europe to declare 22 November as Kimchi Day annually is a fitting celebration of the central role our Korean communities play in the cultural life of our borough. This is particularly important for us, as this year also marks the celebration of 140 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and the United Kingdom.”

The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United Kingdom, H. E. Mr Yeocheol Yoon, said that for Korean expatriates in Europe, the Royal Borough of Kingston is like a hometown:

““The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in London is the region where the largest number of Korean expatriates reside. For Korean expatriates in Europe, it is a place that is like a hometown in our hearts.

"It is very meaningful that Kimchi Day has been designated in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, for the first time in Europe. I am especially happy to share this good news together as we celebrate the 140th anniversary of Korea-UK diplomatic relations this year. 

“Designating Kimchi Day would have been impossible without the interest and support of KBCE (Korean British Cultural Exchange), who have been working hard since 2016 to introduce the authentic taste of kimchi, and also of the mayor and the councillors of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.

“We hope that Kimchi Day will serve as an opportunity to deepen the understanding of Korean food and culture among the British people, and also to further enhance the friendship and strengthen mutual cooperation between the two countries, as we mark the 140th anniversary of Korean-British diplomatic relations this year.”

Published: 30th January 2023