The Subversive Nature of Noodles

On the 12th, North Korea declined a South Korean offer of food aid. The rejection was widely seen in Seoul as a way for North Korea to express disquiet at being offered wheat flour, medical supplies and instant noodles when it wanted rice, cement and heavy machinery.

However, some say that this reason alone is not enough to explain North Korea’s sudden change in attitude. Observers say that there must be other reasons for the decision. Well, for some defectors it was the 3 million units of instant cup noodles on offer that really inspired the rejection.

One such defector hailing from Shinuiji in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on the 17th, “The South Korean instant cup noodles they gave out to flood victims in 2010 became very popular. The authorities had removed the noodles and sauce from the cups before giving them to people, but we still knew that it was all from South Korea because of the writing on the flavor sachets.”

At the time, the South Korean government also gave 3 million units of instant cup noodles to flood victims in the Shinuiju region. According to the source, the people who received them were surprised at how good they were.

South Korean instant cup noodles are ordinarily on sale in North Korean markets, but many local residents don’t have enough disposable income to buy them since they are both smaller in volume and more expensive than bags of locally produced or Chinese instant noodles. Therefore, 2010 was the first time a significant number of local people had ever tasted the South Korean product.

Having struggled with the implications of delivering South Korean cup noodles to common people in 2010, the defector said that she suspects the authorities simply did not want to deal with the same situation this time around.

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