2008 Student-Faculty Fellows: Viterbo University

A Dynamic Diet:
The South Korean Nutrition Transition and Movement toward a Westernized Diet

Mentor: Carol Klitzke
Students: Leah Anderson, Brooke Moersfelder, Amanda Richardson, Rebecca Sikorski, Stephanie Walker


Project Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify food consumption patterns among South Koreans that indicate a shift from the traditional Korean diet to a more Westernized pattern. A Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), including both Korean and Western foods, was developed, translated into Korean, and field-tested on Korean-Americans in a Midwestern city. The FFQ asks respondents to indicate how many times per day, per week, or per month a specific food is consumed. FFQs were then administered in five locations in South Korea, including schools and churches. Of 138 FFQs administered and collected, 126 were usable and included responses from 66 children and 60 adults. Preliminary review of the data suggests that South Korean citizens are selecting Westernized foods on a more regular basis. By comparing consumption patterns of children versus adults, this trend toward Westernization is much more evident in children.

Leah Anderson

This entire process has been a wonderful learning experience for me. My critical thinking skills, ability to write professional materials, and capability to work collaboratively with others have improved. We were able to see nutrition and dietetics in a completely new and global perspective. For instance, we had the opportunity to teach Korean students of various ages how to prepare healthy snacks, and we also were given tours of multiple food service operations, allowing us to compare and contrast South Korean quantity food production with that in the United States. Moreover, I now have greater confidence in my abilities, and I am more willing to put myself in new and unfamiliar situations. I especially enjoyed staying with a host family. My hosts were older and very traditional. Neither spoke any English, and I speak little Korean. Communication was not easy, but our journey to overcome this language barrier was what made the experience neat.

Brooke Moersfelder

My experience in South Korea was an adventure that I will forever remember, and one that has changed my views of other cultures for the better. South Korea is a marvelous country and we were treated with the utmost hospitality. I am now more aware of what is a traditional diet in Korea, and I have begun to reassess my own eating habits. In the future, I will be more able to understand the struggles my patients have to add new foods to their diet or eliminate favorite foods from their daily consumption. My views of the world and of international travel have also changed.

Amanda Richardson

My trip to South Korea was a tremendous learning experience and the memories will stay with me forever. Being submersed in another culture was a new experience for me. I pushed myself and did things that I would normally never do back home. Going to another country changes you and helps you learn more not only about the other country, but also about your own country. Through studying the nutrition transition in South Korea, I gained a better understanding of how the research process works. I gained important insights through our food frequency questionnaires, a visit with dietetic students at Chungnam University, observing food service operations in school kitchens, as well as visiting local grocery stores and eating with South Korean families. We observed firsthand how a lot of younger Koreans prefer more Westernized foods. Now, I better understand how one.s surroundings influence food choices as well as the role food plays in a country.s culture.

Rebecca Sikorski

I learned about Korean culture and about the nutrition transition occurring in South Korea during this research experience, but also learned a lot about myself, my friends, and U.S. culture. I enjoyed the challenge of helping to create an FFQ, having it translated into Korean, and then administering it in South Korea. 126 responses is a significant number. I also learned how difficult it is to change one.s dietary pattern as I lived on a Korean diet for three weeks. This experience will inform my last year in college and my life as a professional.

Stephanie Walker

Prior to our trip to South Korea, I had never left the United States. The trip proved to be an experience of a lifetime. Our group developed a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), and once completed, we tested it among Korean-Americans in the United States before using it in South Korea. Networking and communication were key components to our success. In addition, I gained experience in developing profession writing skills, working in a collaborative group, and conducting research. The experience has taught me a great deal about issues related to nutrition and added to my global perspective.