Chocolate Snacks and Noodles on the Line

It is said that one of the most important things about working in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) is the chocolate snacks and ramyeon [instant noodles] that workers are given by their employers. This popularity is reflected in the fact that, as one KIC employee told Daily NK on the 18th, supplies are used as prizes in staff sports, while some employees have clubbed together to efficiently distribute them.

“Nowadays the ramyeon and Choco Pies from South Korean companies are being used as prizes for the winners of volleyball games,” the source revealed. “Winners are
pleased of course, and the losers really put their hearts into the next game to
try and get ‘revenge.’ 
Workers at the Complex used to just play table tennis or volleyball for fun during their lunch breaks, but now nothing goes
on without someone placing a bet

Elsewhere, groups of employees club together to improve distribution of snack foods and yield larger gains for all. Using a system common in microfinance in South Korea, resources are pooled so that members of the collective receive large quantities of snacks, but at less frequent intervals.

Complex laborers ordinarily receive one pack of noodles and three to four Choco Pies per day. However, by clubbing together a worker receives 5-7 packs
of ramen and 15-20 Choco Pies at one time. These are generally then sold on the market beyond the Complex fence. According to the source, beef flavored noodles sell for 3500 won in South Hwanghae Province, and kimchi flavored ones for 3000

Choco Pies and noodles have long been popular with North Korean
consumers. It has been estimated that as many as 40-50,000 of the individually wrapped Choco Pies are traded in North Korean markets daily. Their popularity is such that there are now wholesalers who only trade
in Choco Pies and ramen originating out of Kaesong.

“At the markets in the Kaesong region, most of the consumers
are cadres and the donju [new moneyed
class] who want to have them to hand for visitors or as a special holiday
food,” the source said.

Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to