For those in the pariah nation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the black market offers a lifeline to cultural items and information from outside the borders. Now, in an effort to compete with one of the black market’s most popular items, North Korea will reportedly be unveiling its own version of a South Korean snack.
North Korea will produce a packaged cake that resembles the West’s Moon Pie, which in South Korea is called a Choco Pie. According to a report by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, the North’s decision to produce knockoffs of the dessert treat comes as Pyongyang and Seoul remain at a stalemate regarding the wages of North Korean workers in the special Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The complex is a special economic zone located near the Demilitarized Zone separating the North and the South and was set up as a way to forge closer ties between the two nations. It is widely suspected that the wages of workers, who typically earn around $67 a month, go directly into the pockets of the government. According to the Telegraph, North Korea is demanding that the South increase the pay of the roughly 53,000 North Korean workers by 5.18 percent.
However, the South is reluctant to do this out of fears of implicitly helping Pyongyang gain hard currency. Instead, South Korean companies that employed Kaesong workers use Choco Pies as a form of bonuses to avoid directly funding the North Korean government. The treat normally sells in South Korea for about 300 won (about 27 cents), but can be sold on the black market at a markup to about 6,200 won, allowing workers to pocket money for themselves.
As a result, North Korea reportedly has begun manufacturing its own version to drive down the worth of a South Korean Choco Pie on the black market.
“North Korea’s intention is to limit contact with South Korean products and lifestyles,” an unnamed official with the Ministry of Unification in Seoul told the newspaper, and will be directly supplying Kaesong workers with the locally made version, reportedly being produced in a food factory in Pyongyang. Chosun Ilbo reports that the North Korean version will come in packaging that looks similar to the original and will go for about 1,700 won.