In its quest to understand the subtle yet significant facets of North Korean culture, South Korean public broadcaster MBC recently delved into the political and social symbolism embedded within North Korean snacks.

Reporter Jeongsil Moon took a closer look at how the packaging of these snacks reflects the changing landscape within the secretive nation.

Before diving into the intriguing evolution of North Korean snack packaging, Moon tried to get a taste of the snack scene in the enigmatic nation. Joining her were two guests who have first-hand experience with North Korean snacks – Jeon Young-seon and Na Min-hee.

The past vs. present: a packaging revolution

Na Min-hee wasted no time in highlighting the striking transformation in North Korean snack packaging. She vividly recalls a time when North Korean snacks lacked any distinctive branding.

“Back then, you could easily tell they were North Korean snacks just by looking at them. There were no logos or labels,” she reminisces. “The packaging consisted of plain paper with only the name of the snack scribbled on it. They were simply packed in transparent plastic bags that were notoriously tough to open.”

However, as we peer into the present, it’s evident that North Korean snack packaging has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. “Today, the packaging is a riot of colours and designs,” Na Min-hee points out.

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“Every snack now boasts its unique logo and branding, making them indistinguishable from snacks worldwide. It’s a visual feast.”

From drab to fab: the art of packaging

The shift in North Korean snack packaging not only reflects aesthetic changes but also hints at broader societal transformations. In the past, the minimalistic packaging mirrored the secrecy and isolation North Korea was known for.

Now, the vibrant packaging tells a different story – one of openness and a desire to connect with the world.

The use of bright colours, eye-catching graphics, and well-defined branding elements signals a shift towards a more consumer-oriented approach. “These packaging designs aim to attract consumers, both domestically and potentially internationally,” says Jeon Young-seon, emphasising the strategic shift in North Korea’s approach to the snack industry.

Breaking barriers: the practical side of packaging

Beyond aesthetics, practicality plays a significant role in the evolution of North Korean packaging. Transparent plastic bags have given way to more user-friendly, easy-to-open options.

This change reflects a growing awareness of consumer convenience and aligns with global packaging standards, as well as innovations in neighbouring South Korea’s packaging.

Jeon Young-seon points out, “The transition from cumbersome packaging to user-friendly options signifies North Korea’s intent to keep pace with global packaging trends. It’s a subtle but essential step towards modernising their snack industry.”

North Korean snack packaging may seem like a niche topic, but it offers a unique window into a nation shrouded in mystery. The transformation from plain, minimalistic packaging to vibrant, consumer-centric designs underscores North Korea’s evolving outlook.

Through understanding these newfound insights into the world of North Korean snacks, we are reminded that packaging isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a reflection of culture, ideology, and aspirations.

North Korea’s packaging journey tells a story of change and adaptation, one that transcends the boundaries of snack wrappers and offers a glimpse into a nation in transition.