Last week I was sitting in a meeting room with a handful of other journalists at LG's Science Park in Seoul. We were being taken through a series a slides containing the history of the company. It was all quite standard contextual fare... until something caught my eye.
In 1984 LG, then known as Goldstar, released its first Kimchi Refrigerator. I had to know more.
My keen interest in a dedicated Kimchi fridge was the last thing that LG expected a Western journalist to be interested in, and said as much. Considering that we were there to see the company's next generation of AI and connected smart home products, I could see their point.
But this was just so damn cool. No pun intended.
If you know anything about Korean food, the existence of this fridge isn't that surprising. Kimchi is a staple and its generally made by fermenting cabbage, but can also be made from other vegetables such as radishes.
And while modern technology has removed the necessity to make kimchi in order to survive winter (as well as the need to bury the jars to maintain the correct temperature), it remains a popular and important part of Korean cuisine. And making it still requires space, which is why it has been an increasingly popular household appliance in South Korea for over thirty years.
In fact, it was reported in 2016 that production of Kimchi refrigerators had to begin a month early due to the exponential demand ahead of Gimjang — the Kimchi-making season that is usually in November or early December. Sales across the country apparently rose from 1.05 million in 2013 to 1.3 million in 2016.
And now the demand is trickling down to Australia (and is already being met in the United States). Brad Reed, the senior marketing manager of LG Australia told Gizmodo Australia that the company is receiving increasing requests for Kimchi refrigerators here.
Consequently, the company will be releasing one of the smaller versions in Australia in the near future. While they won't be the size of the French-door style models we can see here, they will most likely be the size that fit into regular fridge cavities in Australia.
The 2018 models can be used as a regular fridges, but are specifically optimised for Kimchi fermentation. This includes designing them with specialised containers and shelving, as well as keeping the fridges at the optimal temperature, which is -1.5 degrees celsius.
Some fridge models also have specific Kimchi drawers, if you're after a more versatile appliance. The reason for the dedicated area works by the same logic as have a specific fridge for it - Kimchi has a pungent scent. And while the finished product is delicious, you also don't want the fragrance to penetrate into your other food.
Having the fridges come to Australia will also help fulfill the wish of Koo Bon-moo, former Group Chairman of LG in South Korea. Koo played an instrumental role in the company for decades and died earlier this. One of his greatest wishes was to have Kimchi fridges sold world wide. And it looks like its coming true.
The author travelled to South Korea as a guest of LG