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I know it’s hard to believe, but in South Korea, Spam is considered a holiday treat, one that inspires happy memories.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson had a story about it in September.

“South Korea,” she wrote, “is preparing for the annual lunar thanksgiving holiday, which is known as Chuseok.

“Locals celebrate the holiday by visiting relatives, paying respects to family ancestors as well as the giving and receiving of packaged cans of Spam.

“While that might sound odd, the tins of pre-cooked pork have become a staple of South Korean life.”

Brand manager Shin Hyo Eun explains, ” ‘Spam has a premium image in Korea. It’s probably the most desirable gift one could receive, and to help create the high-class image, we use famous actors in our commercials.’ …

“Spam was introduced to Korea by the US army during the Korean War, when food was scarce – and meat even scarcer. Back then, people used whatever they could find to make a meal.

“But the appeal of Spam lasted through the years of plenty and it’s now so much a part of South Korean food culture, that it’s the staple ingredient in one of the country’s favourite dishes: budae jigae or army stew.”

Ho Gi-suk runs a restaurant near a U.S. base.

” ‘Back then,’ she tells me, ‘there wasn’t a lot to eat. But I acquired some ham and sausages… the only way to get meat in those days was to smuggle it from the army base.’ …

“Army Stew is now well-established as part of South Korea’s culinary landscape — as traditional here as Spam gift-sets for thanksgiving.

” ‘It’s salty, and greasy, and goes very well with the spices,’ one customer told me. ‘Korean soup and American ham – it’s the perfect fusion food.’ ”

More.

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