What beef means to Koreans…

It is a well-known fact that languages do reflect on its culture and history. In Korea, beef has the symbol of wealth. Especially, for older generations, beef has been the food that they used to long for in the olden days because it wasn’t easy to buy in the 60s and 70s.


In 1970, average annual beef consumption per person was about 1.2 kg. As of 2010, the average annual beef consumption increased to more than 10kg. This indicates that not many people had access to beef as opposed to today. The wealthy people, back in 1960 and 1970, they used to eat beef once or twice a week. Unfortunately, majority of middle class Koreans couldn’t taste it unless it was a special holiday. For that reason, it wasn’t an unusual thing to see people asking for beef fat to make the soup because there wasn’t enough meat to flavor large quantity of beef soup.


In Korea, the main purpose of cattle was for harvesting back in the days, which made it harder for people to eat beef. Plus, only the royal household could eat beef for special events.  During the Japanese colonialism in Korea, the growth of cattle increased for the military use. However, after the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Asia-Pacific War, all the cattle were taken to Japan. Of course, it got even harder to eat beef after the Korean War.


Up to these days, the history became part of the culture and became a saying. Some Koreans may describe the status of their financial stability by saying they can afford to buy and eat beef. It doesn’t literally mean they were not able to eat beef before. It just explains that they are making a lot of money or representing financial success.

According to this survey done by ‘Job Korea’, Korean’s favorite meat was pork meat. 68.8% of Koreans said pork meat and 19.1% of people said chicken. What is ironic about it is that Koreans consume more pork than beef regardless of their current economic status. For Koreans, Soju is a good pair with pork meat. Most likely, Soju plays a big role in this outperforming pork meat consumption. Even though Koreans eat more pork, they are mostly likely to say yes to ‘beef’ when you treat Koreans out. At least, now you will probably understand why.

Leave a Reply