In 2014, Huffington Post called Korea one of the 13 worst countries in the world for vegans.
Granted, vegan residents of South Korea (like myself) will admit that living here is not without its challenges, but the relationship between Korean culture and veganism appears determined to blossom nonetheless.
1. Festival Frenzy
The vegan festival culture in South Korea, for example, has been on a steady incline.
The first festival occurred just last year, but there have already been at least three more in 2017, with one on Jeju Island just last weekend. Surely impossible to justify without a relative increase in interest.
2. Restaurants and Food Service
Despite South Korea being a notoriously meatcentric country, change is in the air in the food industry.
Vegan and veg-friendly restaurant website Happy Cow now lists 21 vegan restaurants in Seoul alone; one of which, temple food restaurant Balwoo Gongyang, has been awarded a Michelin star.
The second biggest city, coastal metropolis Busan, is listed as having eight fully vegan restaurants.
Many are very well received, with establishments like Jack in the Beanstalk (Busan) and Plant (Seoul) having seen enough success in recent years to accommodate their expansion.
3. Social Media
The blossoming connection between veganism and Korean culture is also hard to miss in the online vegan community.
Twenty-something Korean-Canadian, Rose, of YouTube’s Cheap Lazy Vegan has shared a number of adapted Korean recipes with her viewers, while Korea born MommyTang, has used mukbangs (or ‘eating shows’,) popularized in Korea to skyrocket her channel to success, sharing Korean food and culture with a viewership dedicated enough to watch her eat for upwards of 45 minutes at a time.
Both creators have rapidly increased their popularity in recent years, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers between them.
Mommy Tang has more than 400k subscribers
It would be a crime to discuss South Korea and the vegan movement, and pass over the enthusiastically received 2017 Netflix release, Okja.
Met with a standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival, it is not without critical acclaim.
Much of its success can of course be accredited to lead actress, Seo-Hyun Ahn, and cowriter/director, Boon Joon-ho, both hailing from South Korea.
With a plot centred around the mistreatment and commodification of animals, and the real world Animal Liberation Front represented, the veganess of the movie is unmistakable.
While fighting for animals can feel at times like an uphill battle, if this is what’s happening with veganism and ‘one of the hardest countries to be vegan on earth’, it seems there is hope for the movement yet.