SEOUL, June 8 (UPI) -- A popular South Korean snack has received a North Korean makeover.
Choco Pie, the individually wrapped cakes with a marshmallow filling once distributed to North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex as bonuses, has been replaced by the North Korea-made "Steamed Rice Cake Ball," South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reported Monday.
A South Korea business contact based in Kaesong said South Korean businesses had given North Korean factory workers Choco Pies and other South Korean items as bonuses between 2006 and 2012, South Korean media outlet No Cut News reported.
Choco Pies quickly gained currency in North Korea outside Kaesong, making their way into North Korea's burgeoning black markets. The supply of Choco Pies reached as high as 800,000 daily, according to the South Korean business source.
In response, North Korea banned Choco Pie distribution at Kaesong in 2012 and in 2014 Pyongyang requested popular South Korean food items be rebranded as North Korean.
North Korea has been rebranding South Korean and Japanese food items since March, according to a South Korean operator in Kaesong. At a South Korean press conference, the South Korean management committee for Kaesong said North Korea has begun producing near-identical items, including chicken-flavored instant noodles, vegetable oil and a seasoning called "Ajinoriki" that resembled a product from Japan's Ajinomoto Corporation.
South Korea previously used food items to give North Korean workers bonuses, as a way around the restrictive measures in the Kaesong factory complex. The most prized items included South Korean instant ramen, cookies and cooking oils, and their presence in North Korean markets compelled Pyongyang's crackdown on South Korean foodstuffs.
A Kaesong-based South Korean businessman said the North Korean products are priced higher than the South Korean originals.
North and South Korea are currently locked in a wage dispute for workers at Kaesong. North Korea has demanded a 5 percent wage increase, but Seoul has refused to agree to the wage hike unless the North agrees to a dialogue.