To its South Korean fans, the humble choco pie, a moreish choclate marshmallow treat, is a nice little pick me up to be enjoyed with an afternoon coffee. Across the DMZ however, it has taken on a far greater significance.
Deprived of the luxurious array of dietary choices enjoyed by their Southern counterparts, or sometimes even enough food all together, sandwiched between the gooey layers of the choco pie, North Koreans see the failing of their own state. In fact, according to Andrei Lankov, author of The Real North Korea,”Choco Pies are an important mind-changing instrument.”
“It has become a symbol of South Korean prosperity – and North Koreans read it. They are suffering and starving, but thanks to Choco Pies, DVDs and large-scale labour migration to China, people don’t buy the old story [that the South is even poorer] and the government does not sell it any more.”
Capitalist South Korean bosses wanted to reward Northern workers, but cash was a Socialist no-no. Instead they turned to more creative rewards, offering treats such as mixed coffee sachets and instant noodles
The phenomenal popularity of the Choco Pie amongst North Korean workers came about through the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture between the two Koreas, intended to promote regional co-operation- although it was currently vacated by the North following its recent spate of sabre rattling.
Capitalist South Korean bosses wanted to reward Northern workers, but cash was a Socialist no-no. Instead they turned to more creative rewards, offering treats such as mixed coffee sachets and instant noodles. These quickly became popular- but their success as an incentive was nothing compared to Choco Pies, which can be resold for up to four times their original worth in North Korea.
Not only do they represent the ‘exotic’ and mysterious South, the encapsulate the leisure and freedom enjoyed by their neighbours. With the advent of pirate DVDs and cell phones smuggled in from China, North Koreans are growing increasingly aware of the relative failings of their own leadership, and increasingly disallusioned with the ‘Socialist paradise‘ they have no option but to live in.