Why are the Korean chopsticks different?

In this short article, we will answer the question “Why are the Korean chopsticks different?” and will show you contextual information about them by comparing them to the traditional wooden chopsticks.

Why are the Korean chopsticks different?

Korean chopsticks are different because they are metallic. Instead of using the customary wooden chopsticks, Koreans frequently serve food with metal silverware, in contrast to Asian restaurants in the West and nations like Japan, China, and Thailand. 

Scholars point to several likely risk reasons, but it is unclear exactly how the infamous “Korean metal sticks” came to be popular among Koreans. 

Additionally, there are several differences between wooden and metal chopsticks that can significantly impact how well you experience Korean cuisine. 

Next, we’ll discuss why Koreans favour using metal chopsticks and outline the key distinctions between the various kinds of eating toothpicks.

Why do the Koreans use metal chopsticks?

In Korea, metal chopsticks, or jeotgarak, rose to prominence in the 5th century AD during the Baekje Kingdom. 

The fact that they’re composed of iron initially catches the eye because neighbouring nations favour bamboo and wooden cutlery, but Korean toothpicks also have a unique shape and size. 

Between Chinese and Japanese chopsticks in size, they are much flatter and squared in shape. Due to the metal, Korean chopsticks are more difficult to hold, heavier, and thinner.

Why, after all, did iron chopsticks become so well-liked in Korea if they are slippery? 

According to one theory, the royal family used silver silverware for safety reasons since silver changes colour when exposed to poison, allowing the nobility to determine whether their lives were in danger. 

People subsequently started utilising less expensive metal sticks to mimic the King’s “fashion.” 

Another line of research hypothesises that the usage of metal in the manufacture of cutlery is related to the metallurgical history of Korea, which, in comparison to Japan or China, has significant quantities of iron ores. 

Also, keep in mind that metal bowls and spoons are standard in Korean cuisine; therefore, it would be more practical to create all utensils from the same material.

Iron may have been chosen for its practicality since it is easier to clean with boiling water and is seen to be more hygienic than bamboo or wooden sticks.

The smoothness of the sticks may have contributed to the jeotgarak’s flat shape by preventing, for instance, it’s falling off a table. 

Another study proposes that the format was chosen because it was more convenient to create straight sticks than circular ones at the time of production.

Does the chopstick’s material matter?

Even though metal chopsticks are almost universal in Korea, you can occasionally encounter wooden silverware at restaurants. 

First, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different toothpicks available for Asian food. Due to their seldom used and disposable nature, several wooden sticks are available. Do you recall the chopsticks that occidental customers ordering Japanese food receive? 

They are, after all, disposable, and the amount of waste they produce sparks discussions about environmental preservation. They are frequently used outside to eat foods like noodles and other broth dishes that are challenging to eat with metal chopsticks.

Reusable cutlery, in contrast to disposable toothpicks, is made of a variety of durable materials and is built to resist numerous items of washing. 

The price varies depending on the material, and they can be constructed of platinum, stainless steel, and other metals. Most people use reusable ones at home for cooked meals.

Because they are more recent and run the risk of releasing dangerous compounds when heated, plastic sticks are dubious. 

Additionally, these sticks may melt when used with hot food, hence they are typically sold by street sellers for food that is served at room temperature.

What differs between sticks made of wood and those made of iron?

Because the “handle” on metal sticks is more precise than that of wooden sticks, eating traditional Korean barbeque with them is more convenient. 

However, since wooden cutlery conducts heat poorly, there is no chance that the toothpick would heat up in your hand as you eat. 

Wooden toothpicks are undesirable from a hygienic standpoint because they can moulder and are challenging to clean; iron cutlery is simpler to clean and disinfect. 

Noise should also be taken into account, as the metal chopsticks may clatter on the plate while you eat. Additionally, due to the creases in the cloth, hardwood sticks are more comfortable to handle and are less slippery.

Environmental considerations must also be taken into account. Iron sticks are more resilient and can be used for extended periods. The lifespan of wooden chopsticks is typically two to three years, but it is advised to replace them every three to six months. 

In addition, wood might crack or decay before the cutlery runs out of use.


In this short article, we answered the question “Why are the Korean chopsticks different?” and have shown you contextual information about them by comparing them to the traditional wooden chopsticks.