South Koreans prepare to release balloons filled with chocolate pies and cookies over to North Korea.
Last week, North Korea got a sweet surprise from its neighbor, South Korea. About 200 South Koreans along with North Korean defectors packed 770 pounds of Choco Pies into plastic bags, which they attached to 50 giant balloons and released into North Korea from a park in the border city of Paju, according to organizers of the event. It was an act of rebellion against the alleged North Korean ban on the chocolate confections.
The pies, which are produced in South Korea, are wildly popular in North Korea. Fearful that the treats would encourage an uprising, Kim Jong-un reportedly banned Choco Pies from the country earlier this month. The pies, which have become something of a political statement, are viewed as a symbol of capitalism and represent a taste of the world outside North Korea.
Choco Pies have occasionally been doled out in North Korea as bonuses to workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Employees make around $100 a month there, according to the news site Daily NK, but only take home about 30% of their wages as a result of deductions by the North Korean government. The pies were used to supplement low wages and give the workers a literal taste of the outside world.
“Choco Pies are an important mind-changing instrument … [North Koreans] 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 any more,” Andrei Lankov, an expert on Korean studies, told The Guardian. Other items like DVDs have also been transported to North Korea via balloons.
It is not unusual for such balloons to travel across the border to North Korea. Often, they carry things like anti-North Korean leaflets and USB sticks containing photos from places outside the country.
In response to the bombardment of chocolate pie-filled balloons, North Korea’s leadership has threatened to shell the people responsible on the other side of the border.