A confectionery boom began in earnest during the 1970s, spurred by the spread of convenience food culture and industrialization. Favorites at that time included Haitai’s Bravo Cone, an ice cream that was top of the list in 1971, Nongshim’s Shrimp Crackers and Samyang’s Popeyes.
Orion’s Choco Pie and Haitai’s Ace Crackers, released in 1974, marked a new era in high-quality confectionary.
Among the snacks mentioned, Choco Pie and Shrimp Crackers have become all-time favorites among Korean snackers.
Choco Pie was inspired by the chocolate-coated confectionery a researcher bought on an overseas business trip.
It was without precedent in Korea at that time, because chocolate was so rare.
Today this high-protein, high-calorie sweet is in greater demand overseas than at home. It has been a huge hit in China, Vietnam and Russia because of its high quality.
Choco Pie has a friendly public image despite negative comments about unhealthy processed foods these days.
Orion used the slogan “Although you don’t tell me, I know it” in its commercial for Choco Pie, and the snack also features in the 2000 film “Joint Security Area.” Soldiers from the North and South find common ground and a shared taste when they devour some Choco Pies. And in 2005 film “Malaton,” an 21-year-old autistic runner ate Choco Pies for energy.
However, Shrimp Crackers are in a class of their own. They are the top crackers, frequently used as nibbles in the noraebang (singing room) and a popular snack with children, because they are easy to hold and eat.
Choi Jae-kyung, who was born in the same year as Shrimp Crackers, wrote a novel about this snack. It was called “Breathing Shrimp Crackers” and was about a man who first dreamed up the snack, but died too soon to finish his work. His soul dwelled in a girl’s body and when the girl grew up, she loved Shrimp Crackers.
His novel underlines the extent to which this snack food reminds us of the past. It is not just confectionery. It is the most Korean of snacks. This is why Koreans cannot believe the news about “Rat Head Crackers.”
Our shock goes beyond the boundary of simple concerns about food. We have a profound sense of grief, as if childhood memories have been lost.
The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yang Sung-hee [email@example.com]