The purpose of this research is to examine the history of bulgogi’s transition and development over the past century. While bulgogi carries on the legacy of Korean traditional roasted meat, it is simultaneously a very unique cuisine, of which the recipe and meaning have changed over time according to shifting economic and social conditions. As a result, bulgogi is not merely a simple dish; rather, the term embodies numerous symbolic meanings of Korean food culture. The origin of this seasoned roast meat can be traced back to the Goguryeo dynasty (37 BC–AD 668). In different historical periods and social contexts, bulgogi has gone through unusual and dynamic transitions of cooking methods, such as roasting and boiling. One of its first transitional periods (1920s–1960s) is marked by the use of grilled beef that originates from neobiani and the commercialized cooking process of roasting. During the developmental phase of bulgogi (1960s–1990s), bulgogi boiled in meat broth appeared, quickly gaining popularity. The phase of decline in bulgogi consumption and popularity was followed by the revival of bulgogi (after the 1990s), when it was adapted through various cooking methods.
Kyou Jin Lee is a Lecturer at Gachon University in South Korea.
Mi Sook Cho is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition Science and Food Management at Ehwa Women's University in South Korea.
This article was originally published in Korea Journal, vol. 53, no. 4 (winter 2013): pp. 168-194. We would like to thank Korea Journal for giving us permission to post this article on the Korean American Data Bank. The article is a revision of Kyou Jin Lee's Ph.D dissertation, "Korean Food Culture of Eating Meat during the Past 100 Years") at Ehwa Women's University in 2010.