Big bucks in a youthful craze
▶ Elementary school students buying Pepero yesterday in front of Ahyeon Elementary School in northern Seoul. By Wohn Dong-hee
The JoongAng Daily is reviving its “Glimpse of Seoul” series, which for several years focused on the interesting, unique and puzzling side of life here. We hope you will enjoy this occasional series. ― Ed.
What day was it yesterday? If you’re a Westerner, it was Armistice Day, the end of World War I.
If you’re a Korean farmer, it was Farmers Day, but don’t expect too many Koreans to know that. In a coup that undoubtedly has fattened the bank accounts of some clever marketing executives at Lotte Confectionary Co., most Koreans would say that Nov. 11 is “Pepero Day.”
Pepero is a snack that looks like a straw dipped in chocolate. Under the chocolate is a thin cylindrical biscuit, in fact, and it is not even originally Korean ― Japanese have known the snack as Pocky since 1965.
But Pepero Day now rivals Valentine’s Day in Korea, especially for the younger set.
The day has also become an occasion for young lovers to exchange gifts of the stuff, including oversize versions that Lotte so kindly provides. In some elementary schools, students exchange the sticks with classmates at 11:11 a.m. on Nov. 11.
That’s not inscrutable Oriental symbolism, though; the eight ones in the date and time resemble a bundle of the snacks.
Yesterday, Park Jeong-eun, who works at a stationery store in front of Ahyeon Elementary School in northern Seoul, was setting up dozens of different varieties of Pepero at 7 a.m. Half an hour later, elementary school students were milling around the stands, buying versions ranging from 500-won (48-cent) single long sticks to 20,000-won boxes of sticks sprinkled with almonds and candy bits.
At 11:11 a.m., teachers at many schools allowed the exchanges to begin. “I know it’s commercial, but the children are so excited about it and you don’t want to let them down,” one teacher said sheepishly.
Pepero Day supposedly started in 1994 at a girls’ middle school in Busan, where students exchanged the sticks in hopes of becoming tall and slender.
by Wohn Dong-hee