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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Tomorrow is 11-11-11!

While the western world honours the fallen soldiers of World Wars I and II, and hold a moment of silence in memory of their sacrifice, an entirely different spirit prevails in Korea at 11:11 on 11/11. This is the moment when, apparently, if you exchange Pepero sticks with someone, your love will last forever.

And why? Well, it’s because a stick of Pepero looks like a 1, and 11/11 looks like four sticks. And remember, this year is 2011. The date will be 11/11/11!

Lotte, the makers of the chocolate and cookie stick called Pepero, deny creating this day as a marketing tool. They say that they noticed a bump in sales around the 11th of November for a number of years, and responded to that bump by creating special gift boxes and such. The credit for the invention of Pepero Day falls to some middle and high school girls in Busan in 1994, who, according to the official Lotte story, exchanged the snack with the wish that they would all grow as tall and slender as a Pepero stick. Which is kind of ironic, considering it’s a cookie dipped in chocolate.

Whatever the truth is, no one can deny that Pepero Day is successful. In 2001, over 5 billion won worth of Pepero was sold in the days surrounding Nov. 11th. By 2004, the figure had risen to 13 billion won. More Pepero is sold on this one day than on every other day of the year combined. Some put the total between 55-66% of yearly sales in one day.

Lotte isn’t the only company to profit from Pepero Day, though. Many of the bakeries now bake giant chocolate-dipped cookie or bread sticks, and shops sell ingredients for kids to make their own at home.

And it’s not just for kids, either. The love angle of it makes it a popular day for young couples to exchange gift baskets and even jewelry, making it second only to Valentine’s Day in terms of marketing pressure to impress you r sweetheart with candy.

If you’re a teacher, either in a hogwan or public school, be prepared for an onslaught of Pepero. Every year I taught in a hogwan, I ended up with a chocolate-induced tummy-ache by the end of the day, even after re-gifting as many of the boxes as I could.