Variations on the original go back as far as 1917 in the American South. In 1929, Chattanooga Bakery created the official Moon pie with marshmallow filling and Graham crackers for local miners in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Tongyang Confectionery began selling a similar product known as 'Orion Choco Pie' in 1974. The company claims that in 1973, a member of the Tongyang R&D team visited a hotel in Georgia, US, and was inspired by the chocolate-coated sweets available in the hotel's restaurant. He returned to South Korea and began experimenting with a chocolate biscuit cake, creating the Choco Pie as it is known to Koreans. The name 'Choco Pie' became popular when Tongyang first released the Orion Choco Pie, and was well received by Korean children as well as the elderly thanks to its affordable price and white marshmallow filling. Tongyang Confectionery later renamed the company Orion Confectionery thanks to the success of the Orion Choco Pie brand.
In 1979 Lotte Confectionery began to sell a similar confection. When Lotte Confectionery put the Lotte Choco Pie on the market, it chose to spell the prefix 'Cho' slightly differently in Hangul from how Tongyang was spelling it. Haitai and Crown Confectionery also began selling their own versions of Choco pies. In 1999 Tongyang (Orion) filed a lawsuit against Lotte for their use of the term 'Choco Pie'. The results of the court ruling, however, determined that the term 'Choco Pie' was to be considered a common noun due to its generic descriptive sense in reference to confections of similar composition.
North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea receive Choco Pies as part of their compensation. Prior to the closing of the complex during the 2013 Korean crisis, workers received up to 20 Choco Pies per day in addition to their wages. The workers would often resell the pies on the black market. After the complex's five-month halt in operations, workers were cut back to a maximum of two Choco Pies per day.
Starting in the 2000s, Orion began using the Choco Pie to gain a foothold in foreign markets, and now controls a two-thirds share of the Chinese snack market, with a third of Orion's revenue coming from outside Korea in 2006. Around 12.1 billion Choco Pies have been sold all over the world.[clarification needed]
Orion has a share in four major markets - South Korea, Russia, Vietnam and China. The snack has also been particularly successful in Pakistan, India, Vietnam and Taiwan. Additionally, it has become a favorite snack of North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and has come to symbolize capitalism. In 2010, The Chosun Ilbo reported that Choco Pies could fetch as much as US$9.50 on the North Korean black market.
Exports of Choco Pie to North Korea have been very popular, with the snack used in lieu of hard cash in paying North Korean Worker bonuses (cash being forbidden). As of 2013, in the wake of the shutdown of the Kaesung industrial complex, the price of a Choco Pie in North Korea skyrocketed, with the snack being the subject of financial speculation.
In South Korea, there was a legal feud in 1999 between Tongyang Confectionery (currently, Orion Confectionery) and another confectionery company, Lotte Confectionery, concerning the name "Choco Pie". While Orion was the first company to start selling products under the name "Choco Pie", other confectionery companies, Lotte being the first, closely followed and started selling similar products labelled "Choco Pie". After many years of sales of different "Choco Pie" products, Tongyang filed a lawsuit against Lotte, claiming the name was their intellectual property, which was unsuccessful. The court said Tongyang was responsible for having allowed the name to become, over time, a "common noun".
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- ""Choco Pie" is a "Common Noun"". Chosun Ilbo. 5 August 1999. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Debbie Jeong (September 17, 2013). "Choco Pie distribution to be cut down at Kaesong". NK News. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
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- Donald Kirk (21 May 2009). "Pyongyang chokes on sweet capitalism". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
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