"Why Do Korean Restaurants Use Metal Chopsticks?" — A History Lesson You Never Asked For

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Have you ever noticed how most Korean restaurants use flat, metal chopsticks instead of wooden or plastic ones?

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Most people will agree that these chopsticks are (such a pain) slightly harder to use compared to the ones we're accustomed to, but there may be good reasons for that.

From a practical standpoint, there are quite a few benefits of using metal chopsticks (especially once you get the hang of them)

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Korean metal chopsticks are flatter and heavier, making them harder to control at first. But once you get used to them, metal chopsticks offer a stronger grip. According to a Korean travel blog, a good way to practise is by picking up kernels of corn or peas.

A user on Quora also mentioned that Korean metal chopsticks don't roll off the table since they're flat.

Besides that, metal utensils are more hygienic compared to their wooden and plastic counterparts, since you can clean them at higher temperatures. They are also long-lasting and not flammable (or meltable), which means you can use them over a Korean BBQ grill with no worries, hehe.

But the real reason why Koreans use metal chopsticks dates back to the year 523 AD, which happens to be 1,500 years ago

According to Ask A Korean Dude, a book published in 2012 that explores Korean society and culture, historians first found silver chopsticks in the royal tomb of King Muryeong of Baekje, who died in 523 AD.

During this time, silver chopsticks may have served to protect nobility from assassination attempts, since silver was able to detect arsenic or other poisons in food. Besides that, metal chopsticks made from gold and silver also became a symbol of social status among royalty.

Commoners, who were using wooden chopsticks or their hands to eat, saw metal utensils as a way to bring up their social status. The use of metal chopsticks first trickled down to officers, before being widely used in Korean households.

Further down the line, metal chopsticks were used to help Korea cope with the impacts of war

Korea went through an extended time of hardship during the Korean War (1950-1953). Since many forests were destroyed during the war, the government encouraged people to switch to reusable metal chopsticks made of steel instead of wooden ones.

Not only were they more durable, metal chopsticks helped to boost the Korean economy after the war.

Nowadays, it's common to see flat, metal chopsticks being used in Korean restaurants and homes

Nevertheless, some Koreans now opt for rounder, lighter metal chopsticks, which are easier to handle.

Bamboo chopsticks are also used as an alternative to wooden ones, since they're easy to handle and more eco-friendly.

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