Can You Ever Have Too Many Choco Pies?


Tyler Cowen points today to a story from a few months back about cuts in benefits to workers at North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex:

Due to financial difficulties at Kaesong caused by the complex’s five-month halt in operations…the number of Choco Pies distributed will be reduced and North Korean workers — known to resell Choco Pies on the black market for a considerable profit — will have a major source of income cut.

Before the closure of the complex, those working in chemical and heat treatment factories would receive five to 10 Choco Pies a day and those working night shifts would receive up to 20. Choco Pies would then be resold on the black market for 500 to 600 North Korean won each. However with the new regulations restricting each worker to $0.20 worth of snacks a day, the workers will receive a maximum of two Choco Pies.

Choco Pies. Can anyone explain Choco Pies to me?1 Here in Irvine we have lots of Asian supermarkets, and every one of them features enormous floor stacks of Choco Pies. Not just during certain holidays, and not just during special promotions. All the supermarkets. All the time. And judging from the selection of other sweets in these stores, Choco Pies must account for upwards of half of their sweet sales.

There’s no American equivalent I can think of. It would be as if every supermarket greeted its customers with a gigantic display of, say, Snickers bars, which accounted for 50 percent of all candy bar sales.

I bought a box of Choco Pies once. They were OK, but it was hard to see anything special about them. So what’s up? Is this just one of those particular cultural things for which there’s no real explanation? Or is there some fascinating historical reason for the immense popularity of Choco Pies among Koreans? Anyone know?

1Not among North Koreans, of course. That’s just a hook for this post. Their black market value in a place like North Korea is pretty obvious.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate