Last time on our made in North Korea series we focused on electronics exploring the details of the domestically made Naenara browser, now it’s time to turn back to food again! Today, we’re going to take a look at North Korean snacks by exploring a product which will certainly surprise most outside observers, that is a set of potato chips utilizing the image of Disney’s famous Winnie the Pooh. Just how does somethng like this happen? Obtained from a street food stall in central Pyongyang, this curious product reveals that North Korea’s consumer life is not only getting increasingly creative, but also that there is a long way to go pertaining to copyright and intellectual property.
As the picture shows, the snack has an image of Winnie the Pooh imposed on the top of it. Seemingly, there is no relationship between the character and the product elaborated, with the translated Korean title simply reading “Banana Snack“. He exists purely as a decoration In the corner, the product seems to bare a brand logo on it, with “Heung” wrote in a red block. As per other DPRK snacks of this era such as Air Koryo Apple Soda, the packet lists its weight, nutritional information and even has a QR code available on the back.
Inside, the product itself shares some parallels to South Korea’s Banana Kick snack, consisting of small banana shaped potato chips with a sweet taste to them, the texture of the chips were quite soft. Of course, the quality is obviously a lot less than its southern counterpart, yet the banana element is very much there. What do we learn about snacks in North Korea from this? Firstly, once again as saw with the Air Koryo soda, North Koreans are becoming increasingly creative and expressive with their products. The application of a famous cartoon bear to market a packet of chips is hardly characteristic of the country’s old style socialist ways, Disney is undoubtedly a huge capitalist icon!
Yet of course, that leads to another tell tale fact: North Korea quite obviously does not have any licensing or ties whatsoever with Disney to use this character. That indicates a young market which lacks any kind of knowledge, understanding or incentive pertaining to intellectual property and copyright laws. It is fair to say that in a country that has isolated itself from global corporate culture for almost its entire history and built itself upon state led economics, North Korean businessmen would not understand what copyright actually is. Yet, the very presence of Winnie the Pooh himself in the DPRK indicates an obvious exposure to the outside world. Just like everywhere else, he has permeated people’s minds as a popular icon. Because of that, someone in North Korea saw a market opportunity in using that image for their own product. Thus North Korean snacks have a surprising twist to them!