The Choco Pie is a mouth-drying, individually wrapped slab of cake, marshmallow and chocolate, and in South Korea it is as important a part of childhood as Britain’s Mars bar or the American Twinkie. It is manufactured by the Orion company of Seoul, exported across Asia, and consumed in an arc of countries from Japan to Uzbekistan. In 2004, South Korean manufacturers began to set up factories in the North Korean city of Kaesong, an unprecedented experiment in co-operation between the fraternal enemies, and the core of what the South Korean government called its Sunshine Policy. Along with South Korean managers, manufacturing technology, telephone lines and a motorway, they brought the Choco Pie.
Within a few months, the bosses from Seoul began slipping their North Korean workers a Choco Pie or two as a perk. In part, this was a response to the Kaesong wage regime: rather than being paid directly, salaries were processed by the North Korean authorities, which then handed over the money minus hefty deductions. The Choco Pies were a small piece of South Korean largesse, but it was difficult at first to know how enthusiastically they were being received. The fact that Orion wrappers were nowhere to be found in the rubbish bins of Kaesong might have suggested indifference, but the opposite was true: the local workers, most of them women, had quickly realised that the Choco Pies were too delicious and valuable to eat. Kaesong employees, the best paid in North Korea and among the worst paid in Asia, were hoarding their pies, and selling them on at remarkably inflated prices: as high as the equivalent of $10 a piece, a large proportion of their monthly take home pay. The cakes found their way onto the black market in Pyongyang; corrupt soldiers in Kaesong, who routinely exacted ‘fines’ from the South Korean managers, began to accept, and sometimes require, payment in chocolate and marshmallow. By some estimates, 150,000 Choco Pies were being dispensed in Kaesong every day.
Stripped of its cuteness, the story contains two lessons. The first is a reminder of what should be obvious: ordinary North Koreans are in most ways just like everyone else. For all their affected concern for human rights, this is overlooked with depressing frequency by people who should know better. North Koreans are not a ‘zombie nation’ (Martin Amis), an undifferentiated mass of ‘racist dwarfs’ (Christopher Hitchens), but 24 million individuals, as virtuous and vicious as the rest of us, and just as keen on sweet and sticky snacks.
I’v stumbled into the weird part of the Madoka youtube and I’m in a mix of laughing and sobbing
“weird part of the Madoka youtube”
Did you know that a redundant phrase is known as a “Pleonasm”?
If it’s on the internet is must be real! A lovely write-up of my startup by the delightful Caro Winter. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
I’m sorry. Did you say Daft Punk and Skrillex? Remixed? Do the Bronies/ Trotstep folks know? #holyshit
“IS THIS INDIANA JONES?!”
courtesy of Chances with Wolves
There seems to be a trend happening in Eastern European countries. It’s “Let’s climb the highest buildings, bridges and towers in our region and then photograph us on their edges.” There have been some significant risk takers of the daring feats such as Vitaly Skywalker who we covered last year. Skywalker got caught by authorities though and has since reduced his stunts. Yet another audacious individual by the name of “Mustang Wanted” is proving to take the hobby, if you can call it that, to a new level.
Instead of climbing and posing on high points, Mustang goes and then proceeds to hang off of them. Possessing some significant upper body strength, this young Ukrainian hangs from buildings and towers and has his friends take the photos. He even takes the daring feat a step further with such antics as hanging off with one arm or his legs. Crazy? Oh yeah. A small slip of grip would certainly determine a ticket out of this world, yet Mustang isn’t afraid of the consequences. Here’s a link to his website, but a word to the wise:Don’t try this at home.