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Microbes, Fermentation, and Makgeolli
March 13, 2021

How do paradigms in biological sciences and national identity shape alcohol brewing practices, and even dictate the classification of microorganisms? How do notions of purity and diversity enable certain concepts in alcohol production while disallowing others? Yong Ha Jeong, with historians of science Victoria Lee and Charles Kollmer, will discuss historical conditions spanning from the late 19th-century to the present that have shaped alcohol fermentation practices in Korea and Japan. We welcome all folks to join us as we share a drink of makgeolli during the talk.

Los Angeles-based nonprofits Active Cultures and GYOPO are pleased to present a special collaboration called Wild Fermentation, centering the work of makgeolli (Korean alcohol) brewer Yong Ha Jeong, who works primarily with wild yeast fermentation. Informed by historical, cultural, and scientific research, Jeong's brew practice spotlights wild microorganisms, producing to delicious effect a rich exploration in unpredictability, history, and identity. Jeong investigates the history of food and sool to inform expanding constructions of heritage and traditionality within the context of Korea. With a shared commitment to connecting art, culture and community through accessible programming that allows us to think critically about our daily experience, Active Cultures and GYOPO are delighted to collaborate together for the first time.

In a live online broadcast in March 2021, Active Cultures and GYOPO hosted Yong Ha Jeong, along with scholars Victoria Lee and Charles Kollmer, who together explored the industrialization of sool and the way nationalism shapes conceptions of wild and pure fermentation . A recording of the program is available online on Active Cultures' and GYOPO's websites.


Yong Ha Jeong is a Korean traditional music researcher turned sool (Korean alcohol) brewer, Yong Ha was introduced to the world of Korean wild fermentation in 2012. Since then, she has studied Korean brewing technology informed by the alchemy of nuruk, coarsely ground grain fermentation starter containing wild microorganisms. Central to her practice is the collaborative co-creation with wild microorganisms in nuruk and the indigenization of Korean sool in Los Angeles as she prepares for a 주막형태 (traditional Korean tavern style) brewery.


Active Cultures is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the artistic exploration of our global foodways—the attitudes, practices, and rituals around what we consume. We believe that by nurturing vital collaborations between artists, chefs, food practitioners, and their communities, we can illuminate global foodways and feed experimental artistic practice simultaneously, to build stronger connections of empathy, curiosity, and care among us all. We not only commission work by a diverse community of artists and chefs, but also convene a rich network of food workers, scholars, and activists around some of the most pressing issues of our time.

GYOPO is a non-profit coalition of diasporic Korean cultural producers and art professionals generating and sharing progressive critical, intersectional, and intergenerational discourses, community alliances, and free educational programs in Los Angeles and beyond. GYOPO provides free public forums for intergenerational, cross-cultural, and intersectional multi-issue discourses, as well as dedicated spaces for people of the Korean diaspora.