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Pop-up shop offers a taste of Pyongyang

June 19,2018
Poster with images of North Korea and candies that taste similar to what people snack on in North Korea are available at the Pyongyang Supermarket, a pop-up store in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul. [FILAMENT&CO]
In North Korea, the word commonly used for light bulb is bural, a word that in South Korea means testicles. And while the word jeot in the South means breast and is not associated with food, in the North, the word is used as a name for a milk-flavored candy.

This word play can be seen at Pyongyang Supermarket, a pop-up store in Seongsu, eastern Seoul. Here, one can find bural candy or jeot candy cans with labels saying bural and jut, which is a surprise to many South Koreans at first glance.

To help youngsters learn more about the culture of North Korea’s most cosmopolitan city Pyongyang, creative director Choi Won-seok of Filament & Co decided to do another pop-up, two years after he did the Pyongyang Coffee pop-up store in Gwanghwamun.

“In a way, North Korea could be the last country that someone can be curious about as there is so little known,” said Choi. “Of course there are many issues with gravity when it comes to international politics, but I come to think that there can be ways to make some of its culture approachable without making it look too serious.”

The small store with two shelves on each wall is adorned with faded pink to give the store a retro feel. Once you step inside, the right side is filled with candies in small tin cans and Korean-style popcorn called gangnaengi. All the candies come in similar round-shapes, but the colors are different. They taste like sugar, and sometimes like cotton candy when it melts in your mouth. To name these candies, the pop-up store used lots of Korean language puns to make them eye-catching.

On the other side of the wall are actual candies sold at stores in Pyongyang, alongside some pink posters made with designs and fonts inspired by what has been seen on TV programs about North Korea.

The attempt to make the pop-up store is also a way to provide jobs for North Koreans in the South. If there’s continuous demand for the snacks currently available at the pop-up store, the team will work with North Korean defectors to continue making the snacks taste just like what is available in Pyongyang.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

The pop-up store Pyongyang Supermarket will run until June 30 on the first floor of Seoulsup-gil 43. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday. To get to the pop-up store, go to Ttukseom Station, line No. 2, exit 1. For more information, follow the store’s Instagram account @project_rent or call (02) 2088-2494.
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