Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - Page 5 News List

N Korean factory applies science to kimchi-making

AP, PYONGYANG

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants to turn the art of kimchi-making into a science, and he is putting his money where his mouth is.

On the outskirts of Pyongyang, surrounded by snow-covered farms and greenhouses, stands one of Kim’s latest pet projects, the Ryugyong Kimchi Factory, which produces 4,200 tonnes of the iconic Korean pickled vegetable dish per year.

The shiny new facility replaces an older factory and opened in June last year after getting Kim’s final seal of approval, manager Paek Mi-hye said.

The factory is intended to showcase Kim’s efforts to boost North Korea’s domestic economy and produce more, and better, consumer products. His strategy, known as byungjin, aims to simultaneously develop the national economy and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

North Korea’s repeated underground nuclear tests and launches of long-range missiles that could conceivably reach the US mainland have brought more sanctions down on the North than ever before.

However, outside experts believe that the country — while still struggling in many areas — is showing signs of modest economic growth and improved agricultural production.

Applied science, according to the North’s policymakers, is absolutely essential on all fronts.

Paek said the factory has 150 workers, but is for the most part automated.

The primary objective of the factory is to operate in a “scientific manner at every stage,” she said.

In kimchi-making, that means inspections all along the production line to ensure quality and hygiene.

The factory boasts of a one-of-a-kind “kimchi analyzer” to maintain the proper levels of saltiness and lactic acid — its signature ingredient.

North and South Koreans have been making kimchi for generations, often passing family recipes down from mother to daughter or mother-in-law to daughter-in-law.

In 2015, UNESCO added kimchi to its “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” list, saying that the traditional sharing of know-how and materials to prepare large quantities of kimchi for the winter months “boosts cooperation among families, villages and communities, contributing to social cohesion.”

The factory produces eight kimchi products, from the very spicy staple tong kimchi to a milder variety designed for children.

“This is the model,” Paek said. “Other factories like ours are being planned in every province.”

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