20140717_seoulbeats_parkmyungsooIt’s summertime in the Northern hemisphere, and it’s apt that Park Myung-soo is making a comeback to the music scene with a song about food. Park, perhaps better known for his comedian roles in various variety settings, has had a history of summertime collaborations with different artists. In the past few years, he’s collaborated with ex-Kara member Nicole for “Whale,” with G-Dragon for “I Cheated,” and with Gaeko for “I Got C.” Of his former collaborations, one of his most successful singles was a duet with Girls’ Generation’s Jessica, on the food-themed song “Naengmyun.” It’s been about five years since the release of that melody, but he’s set to follow it up this season with another culinary-themed, collaborative track — “Ddeokbokki.” The song will feature Lim Kim.

Park’s new song is about a popular Korean street snack, and he’s titled it quite literally. If his penchant for singing about food wasn’t clear before, it’s definitely apparent now. The use of food in an entertainment vehicle is an intriguing way of enticing the hungry and initiating the unfamiliar. Food is a staple in a lot of television broadcasts – who can forget mealtimes in drama shows and challenges on variety programs? The use of food in a musical capacity however, is not as widespread. Occasional odes to beverages are more common, but other food songs are typically reserved for CFs.

Park’s method of pairing of the two forms offers two avenues: an appreciation of pop music, as well as a bolstering of a listener’s association with a culinary culture. Just as the music is consumed, the intricacies of different types of food are also learned. During the 2009 Olympic Duet Song Festival for the show Infinity Challenge, some contestants chose foods such as spring chicken soup or B.B.Q. as titles for their songs. (Perhaps, these relatable titles were utilized to enhance the charity aim of the show.) These are recognizable foods placed within the context of song and dance, and together, they’re celebrated in a combined form. The cold nature of the food naengmyun for example is translated into a song about breaking the ice between two lovers.

20120628_seoulbeats_dukbokkiIn the past, we’ve discussed our favorite Korean dishes and we’ve also given you a breakdown of a variety of dishes. Food, in general, has been an effective tool in introducing people to different cultures of the world. When tasting a dish for the first time, a person may be prompted to ask: “What are these flavors? What are the methods for cooking this fish? Is this eaten at specific times or occasions?” Because cuisines all over the world carry history and tradition with them, discovering food can lead to an understanding of culture.

In addition, adaptations of foods by a culture can make for a transformation that’s unique. For instance, the coffee culture in Korea is quite different to similar cultures elsewhere. With a larger food culture, there are smaller cultures attached to individual types or categories of food. Although consumers may not be sensitive to these intricacies at their first encounters with a foreign dish, there’s information waiting to be discovered — from the methods of how the dish is made, to the way that it should be eaten.

Therefore, gourmet cultures can be seen to disseminate certain ideas about a country’s culture. It may also compel curious foodies and adventurous gourmands to taste and find out more about a food’s origin. With a medium like music, opportunities are widened further; cuisine in music can help to glamorize a country’s staple commodities. Remember the time when Korean chicken and beer became a fad in China? That wasn’t an isolated incident, but rather an occurrence in the growing international allure of Korean food.

In 2013, foods like ramyun had their exports amount to US$215.52 million. Also, there have been reports of “Korean farming exports doubling over the past few years.” This growth in the Korean food industry is astounding, and it’s likely related to the efforts from the Korean government to cultivate global access to their cuisine (hansik).

Back in 2008, there were concerted efforts in the public and private sectors to increase the number of overseas Korean restaurants. The goal was improve overall awareness and to transform Korea into one of the top five countries in the world to be known for its food. This, along with other ongoing campaigns, are in place to improve the accessibility of Korean cuisine. As more artists like Park create food-inspired songs, so will the popularity of this staple commodity continue to rise. Korean food culture is on a positive and globalized trajectory, and while we see Korean entertainment as the cultural product that’s giving the country’s cuisine its credibility, there may be a time in the future where trends in music can be effected by it.

(MBC, YouTube [1], Korea Joongang Daily, Generasia, BBC, DongA, Korea Times, Wall Street Journal)