News / Asia

No Sweet Surrender - N. Korea Cuts Choco Pie Supply

South Korean businessman with trunkload of Choco Pie snacks and noodles checks car before heading to the Kaesong Industrial Complex just north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, Sept. 16, 2013.
South Korean businessman with trunkload of Choco Pie snacks and noodles checks car before heading to the Kaesong Industrial Complex just north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, Sept. 16, 2013.
North Korea has asked South Korean employers at the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Park to omit two popular snacks from its employee menu, namely Choco Pie and instant noodle.

South Korean staff at the industrial park have told VOA the Stalinist country has also ordered the North Korean employees not take the foodstuff outside the complex.

In an interview with the VOA Korean Service Wednesday, Oak Seong-sok, Vice President of the South’s Kaesong Industrial Complex Business Association, said “Pyongyang basically ordered an economic blockade [of the complex].”

South Korean companies at the complex have been distributing up to 10 Choco Pies per person to its North Korean employees, for various reasons such as working the overnight shift. That means about 400,000 snack cakes have been given to the workers on a daily basis.

The cake, with marshmallow filling and chocolate covering, has become one of the most popular items in the North’s black markets.

According to a North Korean defector who settled in the South last year, there are not enough of the circular treats to go around in illegal outdoor markets.

“Only the affluent families can afford Choco Pies because there aren’t enough of them,” said the defector who chose to be anonymous.

Employers at the complex say the public trading and popularity of the snack cake has made it a threat to the regime’s stability in the eyes of Pyongyang.

Following Pyongyang’s orders, South Korean employers are looking into snacks they can substitute for Choco Pies and various brands of instant noodles, known as "ramyun" in Korean. Possible options are powdered juice, chocolate, and instant coffee packets, according to Oak.

Some North Korean employees view the wording on the packaging that states Choco Pie as a product of South Korea as problematic and take off the packaging before taking it outside the complex.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex is located just north of the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula. The joint project between the two countries allows the South Korean companies to employ cheap labor that can speak Korean, albeit in slightly different dialect, and North Korea to gain the much needed foreign currency.

There are approximately 52,000 North Korean workers and 800 South Korean managers and staff. The North Korean employees’ wages are paid directly to the North Korean government.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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Comment Sorting
by: 1worldnow from: Earth
June 21, 2014 4:29 AM
There are times when 'reading between the lines' is vital to understand any situation. This is one of those times, sadly, at the expense of people that are simply trying to exist. Does anyone else see this clearly? Can anyone understand that these items are being TAKEN from the workers, by the North's black market regime, how else are they getting them? What workplace gives 10 snacks, the same snack, to each employee, each day? The snack makers in the South are making a truck load of money off of this exploitation, meanwhile the black market in the North is making a truck load of money. Come on people, wake up! The South is taking advantage of cheap labor! And nobody has a problem with that,...... snack cakes? Really? Snack cakes, Moonpies? Causing enough trouble to make international news? You mean to tell me that no one in the South (management, administrative, governmental) raised a red flag and said "10 snacks a day, are you f###cking kidding me? What happened to things like fruit, rice, sandwiches? Why are we giving these North Koreans snacks? Giving them snacks while we rape them of their cheap labor? That’s counter-productive! Give them those Saltine crackers we all hate, they will be happy with that." Maybe someone did try to expose this corruption (on both sides!), and he/she may have been silenced. Check into this, you may not like what WILL educate you about corruption, and the people empowered that could care less about the 99% of us who wish only to exist. Snack cakes. If any of you think this is the cause for alarm, you will always be blinded by ignorance. Go ahead, hate on the North Korean government. That's easy. And yes, NK is terrible, one day the NK people will be allowed to live their own destinies without corrupted powers telling them what their destinies are. Snack cakes. Why not the better wages they deserve. Not one single person involved with this workplace, NO ONE, has even dared to verify that the wages that are being paid (cheap slave wages) to the North Korean workers are going to their families. Because no one is allowed to enter to find out. A communist government that is broke, will allow the people they oppress to have ANYTHING that the government NEEDS? Did any of you, that spewed the typical rhetorical hatred to the NK government, honestly believe that the South Koreans were giving these UNDERPAID workers snacks as a humanitarian gesture? I couldn't write comedy this good! NK oppresses their people, that's bad, m'kay! SK is paying the same oppressed people UNFAIR wagers, that's good, m'kay! Go ahead and continue to point fingers, place blame, spew rhetorical hatred (OMG, it’s the same objective as the Democrats and Republicans!!!!), in the meantime the poor under-privileged NK workers will continue being raped of a fair wage. I guess all you rhetoric spewers would think it’s best to send in the UN “Peacekeepers” to ensure they get their Moonpies! This just in: Marie Antoinette burst out of her grave and yelled “Yes! Let them eat Moonpies!” Get over yourselves, put down your Latte’s, and show you really do care about people in this world who are suffering, which is 99% of the 99%.

by: Mikeoneill from: Niagarafalls
June 19, 2014 8:32 AM
North Korean leadership is toxically narsisistic they don't even care enough about their own people to ensure they are fed.This kind of blind spot in their perception ensures their downfall.

by: Gerard M Palomo from: Yeosu, ROK
June 19, 2014 6:24 AM
This, better than anything else, will show you the true state of the mighty DPRK: It is frightened by the presence of, essentially, an old-fashioned "moon pie." It is not so much that these items stimulate black market activity, as it is that the citizens of the DPRK suffer from privations large and small, so that even a child's unsophisticated treat becomes a minor Holy Grail of sensual pleasure, and thusly might stimulate thoughts of the society that produced such delights as cheap throwaways.

by: John
June 19, 2014 4:43 AM
In other words, the South Koreans pay their North Korean employees with Choco Pies and instant noodles. Must admit I'll be interested to see how they can solve this one. If what they offer their employees isn't worth anything, they won't do much work; if it is worth anything, it'll piss off Jongo's mob. I await the result with bated breath.

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