Gastro-diplomacy refers to a method of building the reputation of one’s country through promoting one’s national cuisine. It received public exposure in August 2010 through reports that Taiwan had launched a gastro-diplomatic campaign as a way to tell people about itself, differentiate it in people’s minds from China and demonstrate that the country is more than just a huge electronics factory.
Neither the idea nor the word was new. Gastro-diplomacy was quite widely used around 2002-03 in reference to a similar initiative by Thailand, called Global Thai, to greatly increase the number of restaurants around the world serving Thai food.
Campaigns by North Korea, India, Malaysia and other countries have employed the same technique. A South Korean push in the US has led to kimchi diplomacy being created in reference to the country’s famous spicy pickled cabbage. Similarly, the current Taiwanese gastronomic strategy has been called dim sum diplomacy.
For all that Korea is spending trying to rebrand itself and push Korean gastrodiplomacy, it would be better served listening and looking for examples of organic, authentic and homegrown outlets of cultural gastrodiplomacy like the Korean taco truck.
Korea Times, 4 Jul. 2010.
Taiwan has become the latest country to launch a diplomatic drive based around its national cuisine. President Ma Ying-jeou has ordered his envoys to start talking the language of food by launching a £20m “gastro-diplomacy” campaign in the UK and elsewhere.
Guardian, 8 Aug. 2010