Korean Chopstick Etiquette

The informant (J) is the son of two Korean immigrants. He moved to a city on the west coast when he was two years old and grew up there, but he was born in Korea and spent many summers there with his family.

J: When you eat rice or something you’re not supposed to stab your fork or chopsticks into the rice because it’s the symbol of like…you’re killing someone.

Me: Like it resembles the motion of stabbing someone?

J: Or no like, it’s…an incense funeral thing. Cause at a funeral you have an incense candle thing that you stick into this bowl and it sticks out and you light it

Me: Why do you do that at funerals?

J: I think it’s just to like…honor the dead I guess.

Me: Where’d you learn about the chopstick thing and the incense?

J: Um… I think my parents probably just told me not to like…stick my chopsticks into my food like when I was younger. I went to Korean school when I was a kid too and I’m pretty sure they told us about funerals

Context: This was told to me while we were in the living room of the informant’s apartment.