- The North Korean soldier who recently defected has been promised a lifetime supply of Choco Pies after requesting some in hospital.
- Millions of Choco Pies used to sell on North Korea’s black market each month, before they were essentially banned in 2014.
- Choco Pies were previously sold on the North Korean black market and South Korea once air dropped a delivery across the border.
A North Korean soldier who embarked on a dramatic defection across the Demilitarized Zone last month has been promised a lifetime supply of Choco Pies, The Korea Herald reported this week.
The soldier, who has been identified by his family name “Oh,” reportedly asked for some Choco Pies when he woke up in hospital after being shot during his defection.
Orion, the South Korean manufacturer of the snack since 1974, announced they would give Oh a lifetime supply of the treat, as long as he stayed in South Korea. The company also sent 100 boxes to Oh’s hospital room, though he is yet to recover enough to be able to eat them.
An official from Orion said, “We sent the choco pies as a welcoming present to Oh, who came to Korea after going through hardship. It was not an act for publicity.”
Choco Pies are banned in North Korea
North Korea essentially banned Choco Pies in 2014.
For years the treats had been making their way on to the North Korean black market – where they sold for up to $US10 – via the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The complex was a joint initiative by the two governments allowing South Korean business to operate across the border.
At one point 52,000 North Koreans were employed there, earning around $US100 a month, but South Korean businesses were forbidden for compensating overtime with cash. Instead they often gave out Choco Pies – around a dozen a day for each employee that could then be shared with friends and family, or sold.
In 2010, nearly 2.5 million Choco Pies were being sold on the black market each month, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo.
Likely worried about the popularity of what was essentially a delicious piece of South Korean propaganda, the North Korean government launched a propaganda campaign of its own telling citizens Choco Pies are harmful to the body, before implementing the outright ban at Kaesong.
South Korea airlifted Choco Pies into North Korea
Shortly after the 2014 ban, South Korean activists floated 10,000 Choco Pies over the border.
History professor Andrei Lankov wrote in his book, “The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia that the Choco Pie,” that the Choco Pie”symbolises South Korea’s prosperity, sophistication and progress. Like canned beer in the Soviet Union of my youth, [the Choco Pie] shows that the surrounding world is rich and full of wonders – gastronomical and otherwise.”
Balloons are usually used to send more traditional types of propaganda, such as pamphlets and USBs, into North Korea.