Another day, another story of wacky, arbitrary cruelty out of North Korea. The prison nation’s tiny supply of Choco Pies, a South Korean version of the moon pie, has been cut off, forcing the few Northerners who could enjoy the marshmallow and chocolate treats back to their old diet of boiled rice, gravel, and the tears of humanity.
To the North Korean people, Choco Pies are more than just the best-tasting thing they’ve ever experienced; over the years, the Southern confection has come to symbolize capitalism and freedom to the beleaguered victims of the rapacious Northern regime. Which is precisely why Kim Jong-un has cut off the last remaining conduit for the snacks into the North.
How were the Northerners getting their Choco Pies? That’s a sad tale in and of itself, of course. The Kaesŏng Industrial Park is located in North Korea, right on the Western end of the border with the South. There, North Koreans are permitted by the regime to do work for South Korean corporations. Now, one can view this as hopeful cooperation for the two sides, and a chance for a few North Koreans to make decent money doing decent work.
Or… you can view it as South Korean corporations exploiting the labor of the victims of a totalitarian Communist regime, cooperating with and legitimizing that regime. Is it fair to do work for a free, Westernized, Capitalist corporation located in a free, Westernized, Capitalist country, and then have to go home to your government-mandated housing block and turn your profits over to Kim Jong-un? No, it isn’t. But then, America has the same arrangement with China. It’s one thing to take advantage of another country’s low labor costs — but supporting Communism? Is this why we fought the Cold War?
By one estimate, 2.5 million Choco Pies were making their way into the North per month.
Anyway, workers at the industrial park were previously permitted to take home as many as 20 Choco Pies a night; and by one estimate, 2.5 million Choco Pies were making their way into the North per month. (Those numbers don’t seem to add up — 4,200 workers would have to take home 20 Choco pies, every night, for 30 days to get up to that number. But then, the pies were very, very popular. And pies may have been making their way over the border in other ways.)
Now taking home the pies is prohibited — workers at the industrial park will be permitted to bring home more Juche-approved “treats,” like sausages and instant noodles, instead. Which is still better than nothing when your Glorious Leader is starving you to death so he can afford ski lifts and space programs.
Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have long been aware of the ideological importance of Choco Pies, and a general ban on the treats has long been in place in the North. The regime has long claimed that the South drugs the pies in an effort to control the Northern population. “If the products from the ‘neighborhood downstairs’ are enjoyed unconditionally, the ideology of the people could wither at any moment,” according to the DPRK propagandists.
The supply entering through Kaesŏng was the only loophole, and now that loophole is shut. Kim Jong-un’s well-known love for Western amenities does not translate into greater Westernization for his citizen victims, contrary to what some observers hoped when he rose to power.
Let’s hope that, sometime in the foreseeable future, Kim Jong-un will be hanging from a gallows like Saddam Hussein, and Koreans from both sides can share a Choco Pie together.