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Fight Fire with Fire
Written by Sophia Kim | Published. 2019.08.12 14:51 | Count : 1199

On a hot summer day, one typical go-to meal for Korean is ‘Samgyetang’. Samgyetang is a traditional Korean dish that is similar to the Western-style chicken soup. The chicken is filled with a variety of healthy ingredients: ginseng, rice, garlic, jujube, astragalus root, and spring onion. Eating Samgyetang on a hot weather is not an exception for my family. Yesterday, our family made a takeout from Samgyetang restaurant in our town. Seeing my family sweating while enjoying the hot soup, including myself, seemed bizarre. This had me wondering why Koreans eat boiling hot soup on a sweltering summer day. There is a famous phrase to describe this irony: ‘Yi yeol chi yeol’.

[Picture of the Samgyetang. Photo by Sophia Kim]

The phrase ‘Yi yeol chi yeol’ is made of Hanja, the Korean interpretation of the Chinese way of writing. In Korea, there are a lot of phrases that are made of four Hanja words, called ‘Sa ja seongeo,” and it appears in daily lives of Koreans. Koreans use them in conversations to describe certain incidence or feeling. Usually, the phrases have their origins in Ancient China. However, some are from Korea. This particular phrase ‘Yi yeol chi yeol’ is actually originated from Korea, and I think it has significance in understanding the Korean culture. 

There are a few examples of ‘Yi yeol chi yeol’ used in daily lives. When some Koreans go to a sauna, despite the hot weather, Koreans go into a hot tub and say it feels cool and refreshing, which does not make any sense. Also, Koreans eat hot and spicy food such as ‘Yukgaejang’,which is a spicy beef soup, on a scorching summer day to sweat. There is a special holiday in Korea called ‘Bok nal, which consists of three different days of summer. ‘Bok nal’ uses the concept of ‘Yi yeol chi yeol,’ and Koreans eat hot dishes on tthat day. The time period between three ‘Bok nal’ is usually the hottest time of summer. It is also similar to the dog days(The dog days are the hot days of summer.) in different countries that areoriginated from ancient Greece and Rome. Despite its bizarre concept, ‘Yi yeol chi yeol’ is a phenomenon based on scientific reasons that are helpful to the human body.

[Picture of a hot tub. Photo by Sophia Kim]

The Oriental medical community believes that the body gets cold when the weather is hot, and the body gets hot when the weather is cold. Therefore, it claims that eating hot food keeps the body temperature warm. It is scientifically proved that elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better and strengthen the immune system. There is also an opposing idea saying that when the weather is hot, the heat stays in the body, so humans have to sweat in order to remove the heat from their bodies. Two opposing ideas have different theories, yet their theories are connected by having the same conclusion saying that eating something hot like ‘Samgyetang’ or going into the hot tub helps the body overcompensate and stay healthy. 

Now I can conclude that the way of eating ‘Samgyetang’ on a hot day had a scientific theory inside it. I first thought ‘Yi yeol chi yeol’ culture was bizarre and backward customs with no base in science. However, through the research and getting new information, the phrase actually contains the wisdom of our ancestors. I believe that the customs that have been practiced for a long time often have a value that is still useful in modern days.

Sophia Kim
Grade 7
Indian mountain school

Sophia Kim  student_reporter@dherald.com

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