November 10, 2012
Pepero: The Stick Of Sweethearts
A very popular snack in South Korea is Pepero. Pepero is a Korean snack that is gifted on November 11th by children to their friends, some colleagues, and by young couples. If a girl likes a boy, she may even make homemade Pepero and give it to him to show that she likes him.
Pepero sticks are very similar to Japanese pocky, and they are both rather delicious. The original flavor for both was just a cookie stick dipped in chocolate sauce. The Lotte Corporation introduced the Pepero stick in 1983, and it is easily available at almost any corner convenience store in South Korea. Currently the two-aisle convenience store near my apartment is stacked full of Pepero. They have all kinds of displays now, including gift sets and boxes taped together to form the shape of a heart. Pepero even has their very own stuffed animal variety to give to your sweet heart on this “special day”. Please see the photo I took at the top as an example.
The question is, how did Pepero get its own day? Well children, gather round and I will tell you a fable that has been passed down by the Lotte Corporation. Even though they deny starting the holiday, I don’t really buy into their story.
The popular story that is believed is that Pepero Day was started in 1994 in the city of Busan when a group of middle school girls gave each other Pepero sticks as gifts to wish one another to grow “as tall and slender as a Pepero stick”.
I personally think this is a bunch of horse apples, but that is my opinion and there is no proof one way or the other. The story continues that once Lotte “realized” they were selling more Pepero sticks around November 11th, they decided to capitalize on this situation and started to market the “holiday”. This made it more commercialized and it started looking more like a made-up “holiday”. One of the major reasons I do not buy into the story of the middle schoolers is that approximately 55% of the Pepero sold during the year happens around this time.
Last year was November 11th, 2011. It was 11-11-11, and considered to by some to be extra special. It was nicknamed the Millennium Pepero Day. My only speculative reason is because it is the first one of the millennium, and the company would do anything to boost sales for the Lotte Corporation.
There are eleven different flavors of Pepero now, and most are them are very good. The quick list is as follows: Regular Chocolate, Strawberry, Almond Chocolate, Peanut Chocolate, Nude where the chocolate is in the center, Nude Lemon, Cocoa, Soft, Cheese, Chocolate covered pretzel sticks. Also available are the “Woman in White” and “Man in Black” flavors, the *cough* classy versions of Pepero.
However, since Korea is trying to be more health conscious because there has been a sharp rise in overweight Koreans some teachers are encouraging the children to give rice cakes to each other instead.
Personally, I believe Pepero day is a made-up holiday. But I love it nonetheless. Especially the part where my students give me boxes of Pepero sticks. They are also really tasty if you dip them in coffee.
The Good: it is a nice treat to give to your friends, colleagues, or significant other.
The Bad: since it is a candy dipped in chocolate it is unhealthy, and possibly contributing slightly to weight problem in Korea.
Image Credit: John Van Uytven