Delicious Choco Pies Were North Korea's Ultimate Alternative Currency. Now Kim Jong-Un's Banned Them

Kim Jong-Un is officially the world’s biggest spoilsport dictator.

Back in 2010, reports began to surface that a new currency was infiltrating the North Korean market – Choco Pies.

Apparently, they’re delicious – here’s a pic. They’re like mini Wagon Wheels:

The pies were making their way into North Korea via the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Park.

According to the Chosun Ibo, South Korean workers were handing them out to North Koreans by the dozen in return for overtime work, as they are prohibited from paying for extra work in cash.

Were handing them out. Now they’re not, because they reportedly promote Western ideals so much to the extent that the factory has been ordered to ban the pie trade, confirming a suspicion first reported in The Guardian last month that Choco Pies were disappearing from the streets of Pyongyang.

Choco Pie wrappers are reportedly “rarely found in garbage in the Kaesong Industrial Park”. That’s because they’re rarely eaten. Rather, North Korean workers choose to sell them on for as much as US$9.50 on the black market – for one pie.

Back in 2010, when the Chosun Ibo first noted the exchange, the average wage for North Koreans at the factory was US$57 a month, so a dozen pies probably represents too much of a luxury to gobble down.

Last year, The Guardian reported that the 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 anymore.

The Choco Pie movement even saw advocacy groups dropping the marshmallow treats into the country by balloon earlier this year. As recently as April, reports were still coming in of Kaesong employees betting on sports with their treats.

But for the more than 50,000 North Koreans are employed at the Kaesong Industrial Park, they now have to be satisfied with sausages and powdered coffee as overtime incentive.

The best excuse Pyongyang’s Unification Ministry can come up with is that workers are “fed up” with the snacks “and want something else”.

Boo, Kim Jong-Un. Boo.

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