Spam: The Unlikely Popular Holiday Gift in Korea

Each year in September or October, South Korea becomes alive with festive spirit as Chuseok, one of its most important holidays, approaches. Everywhere you look, there are gifts for loved ones. But out of all the fancy options, one unexpected item jumps out: Spam, the canned meat.

You might be scratching your head, thinking, “Why Spam?” Especially when there are so many other choices. But there’s history here. South Korea’s love for Spam is deep. Despite its population of 51 million, they consume almost half the amount of Spam as the USA, a country six times its size!

Let’s take a step back to the Korean War. Times were tough, and food was rare, especially good meat. Along came the US army with their Spam cans. Hungry and innovative, South Koreans incorporated this meat into their cuisine, leading to the creation of budae jjigae, a delicious stew that mixes Korean ingredients with American goodies like Spam, sausages and other processed foods. From these challenging times, a beloved dish was born.

Fast forward to today, and Spam is more than just a meal ingredient. As Chuseok approaches, stores stock up on Spam gift sets. They come in various price points, catering to every budget. But regardless of the price, Spam sets are the go-to gift. They’re a holiday favorite!

Outside Korea, Spam might have a reputation as a less-than-desirable food item. But let’s set the record straight. Spam is really just made of six straightforward ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and a simple preservative. It’s a clear case of how cultural perspectives can differ. Take soju, for example. In Korea, it’s a ordinary drink, while in the West, it’s often found in high-end establishments.

Found this in my Christmas stockings

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