Why do Koreans use metal chopsticks?

Around 1/7th of the world population uses chopsticks in daily use. Most of this use originates in China, Japan or Korea, but it is not unlikely to see chopsticks featuring in Chinese restaurants across Europe. While chopsticks in China and Japan are mostly made of wood, Korean chopsticks are made of metal.

Metal chopsticks have become a Korean tradition. In the earlier ages, emphasis was placed on the cost-effectiveness of chopsticks, rather on other aesthetic features. At that time in Korea, metal was more abundant and cheaper than wood. Therefore it quickly began to replace wood in that particular usage. Metal chopsticks were also more durable and had a longer life.

Historians also argue that hygiene could have been an important factor. It is contestable as to whether the concept of hygiene existed in the Korean society then, but the strong adherence to metal chopsticks even after wood became cheaper, suggests that it had. It is also suggested that metal utensils were associated with the aristocracy in many countries and the fact that the common man could also use them, was a very satisfying thought in Korea.

Of course, the modern argument is completely different. The health benefits of chopstick usage are ample; they are an amazing exercise for the joints and muscles, and can instill dexterity in their users. Metal chopsticks are much better than wood in this regard, due to their weight. Because Korea excels in high technology industries, such dexterity is very welcome.

This therefore is why metal chopsticks are in vogue in Korea. Some habits come to stick, and they become traditions. It is only after they have been adopted that their benefits come to light. The story of Korea and metal chopsticks is one case of the same.

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