Pyongyang supermarket offers Seoul’s younger generation a taste of mysterious North Korea
ABC News(SEOUL) — Tin cases covered in pink stickers filled with “Punggye-ri popcorn.”
A “unification nuclear bomb” facial mask that moisturizes your skin and promises to leave it as smooth as bedrock water from Mount Paektu.
And Pyongyang coffee, in its pink logo, draws the attention of passersby.
The Pyongyang supermarket opened over the weekend, but not in North Korea — in a college town in Seoul.
Citizens are given a chance to experience North Korean-style cookies and candies, baked by North Korean defectors with the recipes they brought from back home.
“My family made a living out of baking cookies and candies back in North Korea for generations,” Hong Eun-hye, a 42-year-old defector who settled down in Seoul 12 years ago, told ABC News. “These handmade confectionaries follow the North Korean-style naming, such as finger cookies and light bulb candies. I’m glad customers find it interesting.”
All items sold in the Pyongyang supermarket are manufactured in South Korea. United Nations sanctions strictly ban imports and exports from North Korea.
The promotion team of the supermarket focused on repackaging goods under the theme of Pyongyang, with North Korea’s naming sense to portray satire.
Punggye-ri popcorn, for example, has a rocket on its cover and says it is “nuclear flavor.” Punggye-ri is an area in North Korea notorious for its nuclear test site, which the Kim Jong Un regime claims to have dismantled in May in front of foreign reporters.
The market related the sweetened Korean traditional popcorn with the images of a weapons test site, and consumers get a good laugh at its humor.
Jung Jiah, a visitor who works at an art gallery in Seoul, told ABC News that shopping for items in the Pyongyang supermarket and seeing comical posters and products made her feel closer to North Korea.
This year, South Korean citizens have witnessed the historic moment when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in embraced in the border village. Ever since, the image of Pyongyang has been gradually changing among the younger generation who are more open-minded about embracing the mysterious neighbors.
Besides the skepticism over the rogue regime’s intentions behind their denuclearization propaganda, more people seem to find North Korea as a neighbor.
“North Korea was a country hidden behind the veil,” said Jeon Minseok, who works as a reporter in a Korean broadcasting system. “Through this exhibition, I got a chance to peek into North Korea, which seemed like a foreign country for me until today. The exhibition really lowered the barrier.”
To go along with the atmosphere, a cosmetics company in Seoul introduced the “unification nuclear bomb facial mask.” And this year in July, design company Filament opened a Pyongyang coffee and snack pop-up store to let people get a glimpse of North Koreans by indirectly experiencing their culture.
“Pyongyang supermarket aims to inform people that North Koreans are no different from South Koreans,” Choi Won-seok, creative director of Filament in charge of the Pyongyang Supermarket, told ABC News. “And we used pink packaging to lower the barrier to become friendly with North Korea.”
The Pyongyang supermarket is open to customers until April 7 alongside an exhibition of North Korean graphics collected by Nicholas Bonner, head of North Korea tour company Koryo Tours.
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