The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Director says storytelling vital to ‘The Food of Love’

EBS producer Chung Hyun-sook stresses that the co-production of documentary series helps create true understanding of other cultures

By Lee Si-jin

Published : July 5, 2023 - 16:25

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Chung Hyun-sook (EBS) Chung Hyun-sook (EBS)

Documentary director Chung Hyun-sook shared that her latest food documentary series, “The Food of Love,” meant more than just creating entertaining video content.

“The Food of Love” was a joint production series between five Asian countries -- South Korea, India, Mongolia, Thailand and Malaysia, featuring their cuisines to present each country's culture and life. Chung was the director who helmed the entire project.

The veteran director discussed some of the difficulties that she experienced, which came from cultural differences, mismatched styles and differing attitudes about the documentary series.

“Many Korean directors, including myself, believe storytelling to be an essential part of a documentary. But I felt that the overseas staff thought this series would be a straightforward project, shooting some simple scenes and interviews. Our approaches were different from the beginning,” Chung said in an interview with The Korea Herald at her video editing office in Mapo-gu, western Seoul on Tuesday.

Documentary producer Chung Hyun-sook poses for a photo in her video editing office in Mapo-gu, western Seoul on Tuesday. (EBS) Documentary producer Chung Hyun-sook poses for a photo in her video editing office in Mapo-gu, western Seoul on Tuesday. (EBS)

The director explained that everybody came to understand each other after sharing their thoughts. And she said that the local production teams showed huge satisfaction with the completed project as well.

Chung believed that her documentary not only provided new knowledge and insight about other countries to viewers, but also greatly influenced its creators as well.

“We shared shooting techniques, various ways to approach a specific theme and many other tips as workers in the creative content industry. I think this is an ideal step for different countries to truly come together, understand each other and close the gap,” Chung told The Korea Herald.

Though “The Food of Love” is a food documentary series, the director admitted that it is different from the existing food-themed projects that have become popular over the past few years.

“The series is not about a fancy food presentation, showcasing unique ingredients or sharing the recipe. ‘The Food of Love’ is about the local dish that is rich in history and has significance for the people living in each country," the director said.

"The Food of Love" (EBS)

The documentary highlights how nomads' livestock are directly connected to their survival in Mongolia, while the culture of “kimjang," collectively making and sharing kimchi in South Korea, is an ongoing practice in local villages and communities.

“Food is another language that represents a country’s life and culture,” the director said.

"The Food of Love" (EBS)

“And if the series is able to create even a small resonance in viewers’ hearts, I am satisfied,” said Chung, who believed that allowing the viewers to “feel” the project was more important than sending a message.

Meanwhile, Chung did not hide her wish to continue the documentary series with another season as well, saying that there are so many stunning stories to share with the viewers.

“There was a Vietnamese woman in her 70s, challenging herself to earn a doctorate degree. I was curious why a man sitting on a street in Bhutan has such clear eyes, shining brighter than those of celebrities with their make-up and contact lenses,” the director said, talking about countries that were not featured in the series.

“I also planned an episode with the theme of the Korean diaspora, believing that they have their own stories to tell. As food is deeply rooted in our lives, history and culture, it gives a huge inspiration and motivation to explore,” Chung said.

“The Food of Love,” which released its last episode on Monday, is available on the official website of South Korean public educational TV channel EBS.