October 20, 2011 10:20
The amount of Choco Pie snacks consumed by North Korean workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean project located in the North, has dropped significantly, according to sources on Wednesday.
One South Korean merchant who has been supplying the popular treat to the complex said, "The amount that I supplied suddenly dropped by around 30 to 40 percent last month." He added, "If other suppliers are facing the same situation, then the total amount of Choco Pie snacks consumed daily by North Korean workers there probably dropped from 200,000 to less than 150,000."
Pyongyang apparently told owners of South Korean businesses there to provide cash or instant noodles to North Korean workers instead of Choco Pie snacks. This has prompted North Korea experts to speculate that Pyongyang feels the chocolate-coated snacks are making it tougher for Kim Jong-il to maintain control over his people.
Since the complex was launched in 2004, Choco Pies have become the most popular South Korean product not only among North Korean workers at Kaesong, but also in the entire country. Many workers developed the habit of taking their quota of the snacks home after work to share with their impoverished family members and friends, or to sell them.
One source familiar with North Korean affairs said, "Three Choco Pie snacks are worth 100 g of rice in open-air markets. They seem to have served as catalysts for the country's market economy."
A South Korean government source said, "Products like Choco Pies, which are individually wrapped, have the effect of advertising the high quality of South Korean products to North Koreans."
"It looks like officials in the North have singled out Choco Pies as an agent that may be spreading anti-Socialist values from the South," he added.
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