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North Korea is cracking down on a chocolate-covered, marshmallow-filled black-market currency

A South Korean businessman carrying Choco-pie snacks checks his car entering Kaesong.
Reuters/Lee Jae-Won
A South Korean businessman carrying Choco-pie snacks checks his car entering Kaesong.
By Adam Pasick
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The despotic North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un just can’t seem to cut its downtrodden citizens a break, even when it comes down to black-market baked goods.

The South Korean treat known as a Choco Pie—two chocolate-covered cakes with marshmallow cream in between, made by the confectioner Orion—has long been a favored means of exchange for the workers at North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex who toil for South Korea companies. Since the workers’ wages are routinely claimed by the state, employers were fond of slipping their workers Choco Pies as a bonus. They quickly assumed the status of a black-market currency in North Korea, reportedly worth the equivalent of about $10.

But South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper says that a factory that was giving workers about a dozen Choco Pies a day was ordered to cease its handouts last month. “Now businesses give worker sausages, instant noodles, powdered coffee, cold noodles or chocolate bars instead,” the paper reported. The Daily NK confirms that as of last month, the treats have become hard to find.

Although North Korean imitations are available, fans of genuine Choco Pies can still hope—against long odds—for a chocolatey gift from above. As CNN reported earlier this year, the treats have been sent over the border via balloon by advocacy groups. But since Choco Pies are heavy and fragile, US currency, vitamins, and USB sticks are preferred.

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