“What must we eat, how must we eat and when can we eat sustainably?” These were the main questions that the Pavilion of the Republic of Korea asked visitors as soon as they entered, so introducing the theme chosen to summarize the Country’s participation in Expo Milano 2015.
The structure of the Pavilion was pure white in color, and its shape echoed that of the Moon Jar, a traditional Korean pottery jar. The visitor’s route began with an ascending stairway which poses the question “Which dish do you like best?”… and the walls were covered by handwritten recipes from many different countries. At the top of the stairs there was a sculpture of a traditional Korean dish which contained the inscription “You are what you eat.”
A glance at the food crisis
In the first hall – “What our body tells us” – we found a space devoted to humanity’s dietary habits today, and to the negative consequences of an unhealthy or incorrect diet, such as obesity or food waste. These concepts were expressed through high-impact artistic installations.
Hansik, the secret of sustainable diet in tradition
Korea’s answer to these negative habits is called Hansik: the country’s basic food model, this consists of balanced dishes which respect a number of balancing factors including seasonableness and alternation of colors. The first room is dedicated to the theme of equilibrium, condensed in the slogan “Food Symphony”. A video on the walls and the performance of a mechanical arm illustrated the concept of fermentation, one of the basic concepts of Korean food. In the center of the room stood a giant traditional pot (called in Korean ‘Onggi’), which is used for preserving soya-based dressings such as doenjang and gochujang. These can be found in every Korean home, like fridges in the West, and they permit the fermentation of their contents thanks to a porous surface which allows air and light to enter. This process – illustrated by a sphere suspended in the center of the giant pot, onto which was projected a virtual fermentation process – is known as the Science of Time, because it can require a month or much more, also offering, therefore, a totally secure conservation method. The last room was dedicated to conservation, consisting of an expanse of onggis spread over the floor, each one featuring a projection of some of the numerous dishes that make up the Hansik tradition.
The secret of longevity
Descending another set of stairs towards the restaurant and souvenir shop, the visitor crossed a circular space surrounded by green walls covered with plants plus 99 screens showing faces, Hansik specialties and numbers, reminding us that the secret of long life lies in a healthy diet. In the restaurant, it was possible to taste Korean specialties either in the shape of traditional rolls or in a fusion format, wrapped in Italian-style flatbread.