In the West, Spam is so despised that the name has become synonymous with junk email but in South Korea it’s considered a delicacy. During the Korea War, refrigerators and protein were in short supply so soldiers would barter the luncheon meat, which was used to make budae jjigae (army base stew). Ever since it’s been a comfort food for Koreans.
This week Koreans are heading home for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) but instead of fruit cake, they’ll have gift baskets full of Spam. In fact, nearly half of all purchases are bought as gifts. Korean Spam has much higher quality ingredients than the regular variety. It can cost as much as $75 for a premium Black Label hamper.
“It has Andalucia Olive Oil, and nine tins of Spam,” brand manager Shin Hyo Eun told the BBC. “Spam has a premium image in Korea. It’s probably the most desirable gift one could receive, and to help create the high-class image, we use famous actors in our commercials. Anyone who gets a Spam gift-set also gets a warm feeling in their heart.”