[Photo] Imitation South Korean scorched rice candy hits markets

Unification Media Group  |  2018-01-02 16:05

"As Heard in North Korea" articles contain radio programming content broadcast by Unification Media Group [UMG], an independent multimedia consortium targeting the North Korean people.

Unification Media Group (UMG): Since the end of last week, South Korea has been enjoying the festive season. And how about North Korea? Today we have reporter Kang Mijin here to tell us more.

Kang Mi Jin (Kang): Im still recovering from the Christmas festivities. During the holiday season, I couldnt help but think about the people of North Korea. Theyre not allowed to spend their time as they wish, so I wonder when theyll finally be able to celebrate freely. 

But it seems that North Koreans have also been busy. In a phone call with a North Korean source the other day, she said that she went to the market to prepare for New Years Day. Because there were so many options available for purchase, she had to think long and hard about what to buy. 

UMG: Buying treats for children is the same in both North and South Korea. During the holidays, I always think about the snacks my parents gave me. So when North Koreans shop for the holidays, do they always include snacks in their shopping list? 

Kang: Yes. I recently talked to a North Korean woman who went to the market to buy snacks for her children to celebrate New Years Day. She said she shopped for a long time because there were so many options available. She mostly bought snacks that her children like. According to her, just several years ago most snacks were from China, but these days a lot of the snacks are produced in food factories in Pyongyang and Pukchang. 

Out of curiosity, I asked about which snacks are especially popular right now. In terms of candy flavors, peach, strawberry, scorched rice, and peppermint are popular. There are dozens of varieties of cookies and crackers too, like carrot, sesame, tomato, milk, and more. 

UMG: Recently, I heard that theres more diversity in the food products for sale in North Korea. This trend seems to apply to snacks as well. You mentioned crispy rice candy. Is this similar to the ones we have in South Korea? 

Kang: I recently received some snacks sold in the markets from a North Korean source. I tried the crispy rice candy because I was curious. It smells just like the rice that becomes crispy in the cast iron cauldrons we used to cook rice with back in North Korea. In front of me, I have crispy rice, lollipop, and peach candy. Before todays broadcast, I tried the peach one. It has a subtle peach scent that reminds me of the candy I used to eat back in my hometown. Eating snacks is probably the highlight of the holidays for North Korean children. 

My North Korean source told me that because children love snacks the most, she always buys them for the holidays, and that South Korean crispy rice candy is popular. It seems North Korean manufacturers are also doing their market research and producing what locals want. 

This is similar to when South Korean "Choco Pies" became popular among North Koreans, and it wasnt long before they started producing their own version called Chocolate Danseolgi.

UMG: We all have different tastes in food, so I can imagine children like different snacks. What are the prices of these snacks? 

Kang: Lately, lollipops and crispy rice candies are the most popular in the North Korean markets. Lollipops are similar in shape to South Korean ones. Some of the wrapping is not very fancy, but they taste good and are big so children like them. 

Adults and children alike enjoy crispy rice snacks, so they sell very well during the holidays. For this reason, some markets sell them piece by piece. I hear that lollipops sell very well all the time. In some photographs that captured street life in Pyongyang last year, I could see women eating lollipops while walking down the streets. 

The price of a bag of North Korean lollipops ranges from 2800 to 13000 KPW. A bag of strawberry-flavored candy starts from 4000 KPW. I hear that crispy rice snacks range from 2000 to 6000 KPW, and a single piece costs around 100 KPW. One lollipop is sold for 500 KPW. 

UMG: In South Korea, a lot of people regularly buy snacks. What about North Korea? 

Not a lot of families regularly eat snacks. But now that they are starting to sell them piece by piece, sales seem to be increasing. 

Buying an entire bag of snacks is too expensive, but children can often afford to buy a single piece of candy. Adults sometimes try one while passing by too, so theres more market activity these days. From what I know, crispy rice snacks are always popular at home with family. North Koreans first became familiar with the flavor after individuals went to China and brought back South Korean snacks.

*Translated by Michelle Choi

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