Do you know the difference between Korean chopsticks and those used in China and Japan?

In Korea chopsticks, called jeokkarak (젓가락), are mostly made from stainless steel while those used in China and Japan are usually made of wood. Another difference is that Korean chopsticks not the same length as those used in China and Japan. Chinese chopsticks tend to be the longest ones and Japanese chopsticks the shortest, with Korean chopsticks falling at length between the other two.

So why are Korean chopsticks made of metal? Well, I’ve found various explanations. One is that in ancient times pure silver chopsticks were used by the king because the silver would change color if the king’s food had been poisoned. Then the commoners wanting to emulate royalty began to use metal chopsticks.

Other explanations aren’t as exciting. One is that metal chopsticks are more practical and sanitary since they can be easily washed and used again. Another is that since Koreans mostly use a spoon to eat their rice, they can use the more slippery chopsticks to eat their other dishes (apparently it’s harder to eat rice with metal chopsticks).

Whatever the explanation, metal chopsticks are uniquely Korean. Since our adoption process happened in record time (six months from match to picking up our son), we didn’t have a lot of time to practice using chopsticks before we traveled. And I was embarrassed when one of our waitresses in Korea brought us both forks and wooden chopsticks after watching us struggle with the metal chopsticks.

So I vowed that I would practice and be able to use metal chopsticks without incident the next time we visited Korea. I guess I can count one goal accomplished–I’m now proficient with metal chopsticks thanks to eating every homemade Korean meal with them. Now if I can just master the language. 🙂


5 thoughts on “Chopsticks

    • They do sell them at H-Mart. They’re in the household goods section that’s to the right when you walk in. When we got ours they were along the far “wall” of this section. They have the long spoons as well, which have become the go-to spoons for any soups served at our house. You can find sets, but we bought ours separately and they were fairly inexpensive.

  1. I bought my metal chopsticks online via and I really love them. They are rounded and tapered toward the bottom stainless steel chopsticks, very much like the kind you would see in Japan. They have horizontal grooves around the narrow end at the bottom. These are well-balanced and were very easy to adjust to. I know a lot of folks prefer the wooden ones, but I actually prefer the metal ones now. It’s nice being able to just throw them in the dishwasher as well, and since they’re stainless steel they will last for a long time if not forever.

  2. Pingback: Food Faux Pas in South Korea: Part 2 | Little Utopia

  3. It is also because the Koreans eat meats and vegetables directly from a tabletop grill, and plastics and wooden sticks will burn at the tips or discolor with sauces over time.

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