History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Korea, and in Korean Cookbooks, Restaurants, and Korean Work with Soyfoods outside Korea (544 CE to 2014)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-66-2

Publication Date: 2014 March 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 1524

Earliest Reference:

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Brief chronology of soy in Korea.

The most widely used soyfoods in Korea today are:
Soy sauce (ganjang)
Soybean paste (doenjang)
Soybean curd (dubu)
Red pepper paste (gochujang)
Soybean sprouts (kongnamul)
Korean soybean koji (meju)
544 CE – The Qimin Yaoshu [Important Arts for the People’s Welfare], by Jia Sixie (Chinese) states, when listing the different types of soybeans: “There are also the yellow Korean bean (huang gaolidou), the black Korean bean (hei gaolidou),…” This is the earliest document seen that mentions Korea in connection with soybeans.
     However, there is indirect evidence that soybeans were introduced to Korea at an earlier date: “... the movement of soybeans from Korea to Japan and vice versa across the Korea Strait had been going on since at least the third century A.D. and perhaps earlier” (Hymowitz and Kaizuma 1979, p. 317. Their evidence is based on seed protein electrophoresis profiles of Japanese soybean varieties).
      “... soybean sauce, kanjang, and soybean paste, doenjang, have been used in Korea for more than 2000 years and formed the characteristic flavor of Korean cuisine... It is generally recognized that Koreans were the first to experiment with soybean fermentation, sparking the beginning of the soy sauce culture of the Orient. Their traditional fermentation technology was so advanced that they taught their techniques to neighboring countries.” (Lee, Cherl-Ho 2001; Cherl-Ho Lee and Lee 2002, p. 162).
668 CE or before – “Ancient Chinese records indicate that soy sauce is not indigenous to China, but rather was introduced from Korea during the era of the Koguryo Dynasty” (2nd century BCE to 668 CE) (Kwon & Song 1996, p. 20-32).
683 CE – A record states that Korean-style jang (toenjang) and soy sauce (kanjang) are among the presents exchanged at a royal wedding (Pettid 2008).
9th century –Soy sauce and soybean paste start to be made in Korean homes (Cwiertka 2006, p. 389-410).
1613 – The Dongui Bogam, by Heo Jun (Jo, Dyun) is published in Korea. This is an early, important and widely known book in traditional Korean medicine. In it, the medicinal functions of doenjang are first described.
1650-1700 – Red pepper paste is first mentioned in Korean documents.
1876 – Japan, starting to act like a European imperial power, “opens” Korea, demanding that Pusan be designated as a treaty port and opened for Japanese free trade and residence – just as Japan herself had been “opened” in 1854 by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, U.S. Navy. Soon Japan “opened” more ports and cities in Korea: Wonsan (1881), Inch'on (1883), Mokp'o (1897), and Kunsan (1899) – all modeled on the unequal Sino-Korean treaty of 1882 (Delissen 2000).
      These fateful, unfriendly moves would place Japan on a course that would inexorably lead to World War II.
      The number of Japanese residing on the Korean peninsula increased from less than 1,000 in the 1880s to over 170,000 in 1910 (Duus 1995).
1883 Sept. – “Account of a secret trip to the interior of Korea” [in 1875], by W.J. Kenny is published in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan (11(Part II):141-47. He mentions various soyfoods, but he did not like them.
1886 – The earliest known commercial soy sauce brewery in Korea, the Yamamoto Soy Sauce Brewery, is established in the port city of Pusan (Cwiertka 2006, p. 389-410).
1895 April 17 – The Treaty of Shimonoseki ends the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95); Japanese victory establishes Japan as a regional power. China is obliged to cede Taiwan (Formosa), the nearby Pescadores Islands, and the Kwantung Peninsula in South Manchuria to Japan; recognize Korea's independence; etc. The origin of the Sino-Japanese War was a dispute over Korean affairs. Previously China had adamantly insisted on its suzerainty over Korea – which Japan refused to recognize.
1898Korea and Her Neighbors: A Narrative of Travel, with an Account of the Recent Vicissitudes and Present Position of the Country. 2 vols., by Mrs. Isabella L. Bird Bishop is published in London. The author made four visits to Korea between Jan. 1894 and March 1897. She mentions various soyfoods.
1900 – An article titled “Some Common Korean Foods,” by J.D. VanBuskirk is published in the Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (Vol. 14, pages 1-8). Table 1, "Korean food products," based on statistics published in the 1917 report by the Bureau of Agriculture of the government General, shows Korean production in millions of bushels: Rice 61. Barley 25. Millet 19. Wheat 8. Beans and peas 18. The section titled "Bean and pea foods" (p. 4-5) gives the name of each food with Korean characters and discusses:
Bean curd (tu-bu)
Bean residue [okara] (pi-chi)
Bean sauce (kan-chang; a liquid) made with me-ju [soybean koji]
The solid part of the sauce (toin-chang)
Another bean sauce (ko-cho-chang)
Sprouted beans (kong-na-mul)
1905 Sept. 5 – The Treaty of Portsmouth ends the Russo-Japanese War (Feb. 1904-1905). In a mere 50 years Japan has transformed herself from an isolated underdeveloped country with no industrial base into a modern nation, a major military and industrial power. The victorious Japanese move into Korea. The treaty gives Japan the Russian lease on the Kwantung Peninsula and the Russian-built South Manchurian Railway as far north as Changchun. This victory wins for Japan full status as a world power and equality with the nations of the West.
1907 – Korea becomes a Japanese protectorate.
1909 – The earliest known statistics for soybean area and production in Korea are as follows: The area cultivated rose dramatically from 280,090 cho in 1909 to a peak of 375,340 cho in 1912 (1 cho = 2.451 acres). Production also rose sharply from 1,533,027 koku in 1909 to 2,452,203 koku in 1912 (1 koku = 180 liters or 47.6 gallons) (Bulletin Economique de l'Indochine {Hanoi}, March/April 1915, p. 260).
1910 Aug. – Using the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty, Japan forcibly annexes Korea as a province called Chōsen. Japan will continue to exercise rather harsh control over Korea until 1945, including importing a large percentage of the soybeans grown in Korea.
1920 – Soybean production in Japan peaks at about 548,000 metric tons per year, as Japan begins to import more and more low-cost soybeans from Manchuria and Korea. As a result, soybeans become unprofitable for Japanese farmers and they tend to grow soybeans mainly for their own home use. Soybean production in Japan continues to fall until 1945 – near the end of World War II.
1922 – La Choy Food Products begins to sell soy sauce in the United States. Based in Detroit, Michigan, the company was founded to produce mung bean sprouts in Detroit, by Mr. Ilhan New (a Korean) and Wally Smith. Soon they are doing a booming business and by 1922 they are importing fermented soy sauce from China in wooden barrels to use as a seasoning in their Asian food products. Mr. New is the earliest known Korean to make soyfoods in the Western world. By 1923 Chinese & Korean Soy Co. was selling soy sauce in Honolulu, Hawaii.
1929 Oct. 23 – P.H. Dorsett and William Morse arrive in Keijo (Seoul), Korea, as plant explorers during their 2½ year agricultural expedition to East Asia. They study soybeans (at harvest time) and soyfoods and take many black-and-white photos that still exist in the 8,818-page log of their expedition at the USDA National Agricultural Library (Beltsville, Maryland). The Japanese authorities are very helpful and cooperative. They return to Japan on Dec. 8.
      1930: From June 24 to July 1 Morse takes a quick trip to northern Korea to look for Zoysia grass.
      1930: From Aug 21 to Sept. 28 Morse is back in Korea studying soybeans (at planting time) and collecting soybean germplasm in both northern and southern Korea. The log provides a rare, valuable record of soybeans and agriculture in Korea during this time.
1938 – 17.8% of the soybean imports of Japan proper came from Korea (Lautensach 1988); most of the rest of Japan’s soybean imports came from Manchuria.
1945 Sept. 2 – Surrender of Japan after World War II. The documents of unconditional surrender are signed on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor. Japan's empire is broken up. Manchoukuo (Manchuria) and Formosa (Taiwan) are returned to China. Korea is divided into north and south.
1945 – The earliest known Korean tofu company is started in the United States in Los Angeles (Lager 1945).
1945Korean Recipes, by Harriet Morris, is the earliest known Korean cookbook that mentions soyfoods published in the United States. It contains a recipe for making soy or bean sprouts at home, and a recipe for using Bean Sprouts (Khong na-mool).
1945Korea: Eine Landeskunde auf Grund eiener Reisen und der Literatur [Korea: A geography based on the author's travels and literature], by Hermann Lautensach is published. It contains extensive information about soybeans in Korea in 1938. In 1988 it was published in English, with updated Korean names.
1948 May – South Korea declares independence as the Republic of Korea with Seoul as its capital.
1950 June 25 – Outbreak of the Korean War between North and South Korea. The fighting ends on 27 July 1953, when the armistice agreement is signed. The agreement restores the border between the Koreas near the 38th Parallel and creates the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 2.5-mile (4.0 km)-wide fortified buffer zone between the two Korean nations. Minor incidents continue to this day.
1972 Aug. 24 – A favorable review of the restaurant Korea House is published in the Chicago Tribune. An estimated 10,000 people of Korean ancestry now reside in Chicago. Four years ago there was only one Korean restaurant in the city; now there four.
1979 – The American Soybean Association opens an office in Korea with the goal of selling more soybeans and soybean products (oil and meal) in Korea.
1982 – Dr. Chung’s Foods Co. is the largest producer of soymilk in Korea. Annual sales in 1981 were about $14 million.
2008Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History, by Michael J. Pettid is published in London. Outstanding.


Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Korea, and in Korean Cookbooks, Restaurants, and Korean Work with Soyfoods outside Korea (544 CE to 2014)