Commemorative snack packages flop at markets

[As Heard in North Korea]
Unification Media Group  |  2017-05-26 17:03

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

Snack packs provided by the regime to children have lost their appeal in the markets. Despite their cheap price, the low quality of manufacture and bland flavors are translating into poor sales. There have been reports of "blessings of the sovereign state" propaganda and pictures of missiles on snack packages intended as gifts for children in commemoration of Kim Il Sung's 105th birthday anniversary. For details, we turn to Daily NK reporter Kang Mi Jin. 

Based on the reports that Daily NK has received so far, the snacks are so bland that even adults have a hard time consuming them. When I tried to take a bite myself, previously heard claims that "such snacks will injure the mouths of young kids" were brought to mind. The source who I heard it from said that she would never consider feeding such things to her daughter ever again.

With such strong distaste for the snacks, it's no wonder they are losing their appeal. What are the snacks actually made of?

It's difficult to determine the actual ingredients. There are no ingredient lists shown on the packs of the sugar, corn and sweet rice puff snacks. Moreover, there are no expiry or manufacture dates shown either. 

This is in huge contrast to other snacks sold in the markets. In particular, snacks sold in Pyongyang tend to have a comparatively more detailed ingredient list published clearly on the packs. Hence, it's difficult to understand why the Kim Jong-un birthday gift snacks are totally bereft of such information.

I was once mobilized for the production of such state-manufactured snacks when I lived in the North. I can clearly remember the extremely unhygienic conditions in the factory and never considered buying them for my children. I would expect that such unhygienic conditions have not improved. 

If such snacks are meant as birthday gifts, shouldn't they be of a much better quality than other snacks being sold commercially? Why do you think theyre so bad?

This may sound ironic, but market conditions in the North are driven by capitalist ideals, and state-run products very much lag behind. Consumers do not want to purchase products that are tasteless and poorly packaged. Hence, private vendors of other birthday gifts pay special attention to the quality and appearance of their products to distinguish them.
In stark contrast, state-run operations treat birthday gifts as just another state-controlled routine delivery of snacks and there is no incentive for trying to improve the quality. 

Corruption is also rampant and officials siphon off many of the quality ingredients, leading to an inevitable drop in quality. Officials charged with the manufacturing process care more about lining their own products than the quality of production.

In addition, the snacks are packaged even before theyre dried properly, resulting in them becoming moldy in a very short period of time. 

Even the packaging looks very underwhelming. Presents should be gift-wrapped with some degree of care, so why hasnt there been more attention to detail?

The authorities do not concern themselves with the finer details like quality of packaging. They are more concerned with how to achieve their primary aims, such as the inclusion of images of nuclear missiles for propaganda purposes. 

There is a huge difference compared to snacks manufactured by most private food and beverage companies. For instance, in the calendar distributed by the Kumkop (gold cup) Combined Foodstuff Factory for Sportspersons, there are pictures of sweets, snacks and chewing gum that have much better packaging.

It's also strange that "restorative jelly" is one of the items included in the Kim Il Sung birthday snack package. Anything with herbs or restorative properties would probably be unappealing to children. How do they feel about that? 

According to sources, this type of jelly was introduced in January this year. Herbal jelly has been supplied to youth sanatoriums, camps and asylums in Ryanggang Province since the 80's. I didn't like it when I was in North Korea, and I'm sure the residents don't like it now. I remember throwing my allocated daily ration of 100 grams of herbal jelly away as soon as I got it.

It occurred to me that eating such herbal jelly may actually cause more harm than good, and my fellow youth members used to throw their rations away upon receiving it too. 

30 years have passed and the same herbal jelly is being offered to children by the state. So I can understand why the children reject the birthday snack packages and ask their parents to buy them snacks from the market instead. Even the parents themselves don't want their children to consume them.

*Edited by Lee Farrand

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