North Korea bans workers from receiving 'Choco Pies' as black market trade flourishes

The Wagon Wheel-like biscuit is regularly smuggled from South Korea

North Korea has reportedly banned factory workers from receiving “Choco Pies” as payment as a black market in the beloved snacks flourishes.

The biscuits, which resemble Wagon Wheels, may seem unremarkable but for years, they have been at the heart of a surprising smuggling industry at the border of North and South Korea.

North Koreans have been allowed to work in the Kaesong industrial park across the demilitarized zone in South Korea since 2004.

But restrictions meant that employees from the authoritarian state could not be paid cash bonuses for overtime, so payment switched to food products, namely Choco Pies.

The snacks became a sensation among workers and realising they were too valuable to eat, employees took them back to Pyongyang to sell on the black market for several times their original price.

The Kaesong factory park was the last remaining vestige of inter-Korean rapprochement The Kaesong Industrial Park is a joint venture between North Korea and the South It may seem like another hoax story from South Korea but the phenomenon has been documented widely by the BBC, Washington Post and London Review of Books, among others.

When the Kaesong Industrial Complex was closed for several months last year amid heightened tensions between the North and South, prices for a single Choco Pie reportedly rocketed to between £6 and £14 – more than a day’s pay.

The cost could now go through the roof if reports from the South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper are true.

Factory staff told the paper that North Korea ordered a halt to the supply of Choco Pies, telling businesses to give workers sausages, noodles, coffee and chocolate instead.

A famine in the 1990s killed up to one million North Koreans and the country still has problems with food shortages and receives aid.

Kim Jong-un visits the November 2 Factory at an unknown place in North Korea, a food manufacturer for the North Korean soldiers Kim Jong-un visits a food manufacturer for North Korean soldiers Pyongyang could be concerned about the friendliness between its workers and South Korea, or believe the snacks are undermining its nationalist ideology.

Or maybe the Government is trying to drive hungry consumers to its own Choco Pie imitation, although they reportedly pale in comparison to their southern cousins.

Either way, the battle of the biscuits looks set to continue.

Read more: Kim Jong-un 'executes girlfriend' story was fake
North Korea leader 'feeds uncle to dogs' was satire
Kaesong Industrial Complex opens for business once more
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

£22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity now exists for a...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones