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The history of Budae Jjigae is closely tied to the socio-political context of South Korea during the aftermath of the Korean War (1950-1953). After the war, South Korea faced widespread poverty and food shortages, while American military bases were established across the country as part of the defence alliance between the United States and South Korea.

During this time, local Koreans began scavenging for food from the surplus rations provided by the American military bases. The surplus included processed meats like Spam, hot dogs, and other canned goods, which were distributed to local markets. These items became affordable sources of protein for Koreans struggling with food scarcity. 

Koreans began incorporating these surplus foods into their traditional dishes, adapting their culinary practices to make the most of what was available. This improvisational cooking led to the creation of Budae Jjigae, a dish that combined Korean ingredients like kimchi and gochujang with surplus American foods.

The dish was initially referred to as "Johnson Tang" or "Johnson Stew," named after President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was in office during the 1960s. However, the name later changed to "Budae Jjigae," which translates to "Army Stew,".

Budae Jjigae is now one of the most popular Korean stews in Korean cuisine and a comfort food for Koreans of all generations. It serves as a reminder of South Korea's turbulent history, the enduring legacy of the Korean War, and the resilience of the Korean people in rebuilding their nation.