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A New Yorker Falling in love with Korea

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                             Joseph Mondello

Joseph Mondello is a 29 year-old American man who works for the KPMG Samjong Accounting Corp. He has stayed in Korean for six years during which time he married a beautiful Korean woman, Mi-young Kim, in 2005, and the international couple are now the proud parents of a three-month old baby girl called Pauline. When Jospeh studied linguistics at Boston University he got so passionate about the Korean Language that he came to Korea where he studied International Trade and Finance at the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University.

Joseph is passionate not only about the Korean language but also about Korean culture and food. So much so, last year he uploaded an UCC (User Created Content) named ‘Living in Korea’ made by himself and that has become popular with Korean users. On the UCC he sang a song, accompanying himself on the mandolin, about how great living in Korea is - about the food, soap opera, and culture.

Joseph is quite adept at cooking Korean food. He is able to produce Dakbokumtang (chicken with red paper paste sauce and vegetables) that even some Korean women cannot cook! When his family visited Korea, Joseph naturally took them to the tourist Mecca of Insadong to enjoy Korean food. He recalls with affection that visit. His family’s favorite dish was Dakgalbi (stir-fried chicken with red paper sauce, vegetables, and rice cake).”

Joseph’s favorite region of Korea for traditional Korean food is Jellanam-do. He said with smile: “I’ve visited Gwangju, Soonchen, Mokpo, and Bogil Island in Jellanam-do to enjoy its food and scenery. It is impressive to taste a variety of foods made of bamboo shoots and Maesil kimchi (kimchi made of Japanese apricot).”

Even though Joseph likes Korean food a lot, of course he doesn’t like all of it. “As a foreigner, for me to be honest the most terrible Korean food is kind of fermented or aged seafood called Jeotgal (salted fish),” he said. “And oysters in Bossam kimchi (kimchi wrapped in a large cabbage leaf with oysters) is uninviting to foreigners,” he added.

Joseph also has a thought about the globalization of Korean food: “Korean food is so expensive outside of the country. For example Deokbokki (a broiled dish of sliced rice cake, meat, eggs, seasoning, etc.) is about USD14 in my hometown that is USD2~4 in Korea. Furthermore, Korean restaurants are hard to find and are usually located on the outskirts of a city. Surely the only person who can purchase Deokbokki at USD 14 in the restaurant that is so far from their home is only Korean who is missing his/her own country’s food.” He added: “Keeping traditional recipes but reducing the price would certainly help attracting foreign eaters of Korean food.”

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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