The spread of pre-made kimchi at local markets has led some North Korean families to make less kimchi than normal this year, Daily NK has learned. 

North Koreans have traditionally considered kimchi-making a crucial part of preparing for the winter months. The final days of October marks the start of kimchi-making season in some northern regions of the country. 

North Koreans tend to make enough kimchi to last at least six months. Households with many family members will create tons of kimchi at the beginning of winter, even engaging in competitive kimchi-making “battles.”

North Koreans consider kimchi to be more a “main dish” than South Koreans. South Koreans generally consume kimchi as a side dish, but the fermented dish plays a more prominent role on tables in North Korea, which has long suffered from food shortages. 


The increased amount of pre-made and processed foods at local markets, however, has brought changes to these traditions. 

“People can buy a variety of food products at the markets, not just pre-made kimchi, so the quantity of kimchi that people are making at home has decreased,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on Thursday. “This has also reduced the burden on the women in these households responsible for making the kimchi.” 

North Korean markets stock noodles and other processed food products, breads, crackers and various pre-made kimchi products manufactured in North Korean factories and imported from China. For North Koreans, the option to purchase kimchi in small quantities is the biggest advantage offered by pre-made kimchi brands, the source added. 

“Side dish sellers at the markets have a variety of side dishes including synthetic soy meat, completed side dishes, preserved garlic, and fermented fish sauces,” another source in the region said. “Fish is also processed and sold as canned fish, which definitely makes things more convenient for North Koreans.”  

Generally a family of three will make about 300–400 kilograms of kimchi, but these days making a bit over 100 kilograms is enough until vegetables are available again next year, the source explained. 

 “Even consuming pickled cucumbers, pickled green onions and marinated soybeans with the kimchi means that the household will consume less kimchi,” she added. 


With kimchi fermentation technologies improving in North Korea and an increasing number of people buying kimchi in the markets, the number of factories making the fermented dish are expected to increase.

For example, Daily NK recently reported about the construction of a new kimchi factory in Hyesan. 

”In households where the women are busy working at local markets, they might not make kimchi at all, but just buy it in the market,” the source said. “In the seasonings and spices corner of the market you can also buy several heads of white cabbage, along with packets of kimchi seasoning. You can make kimchi even when it’s not kimchi-making season.”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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