What November 11th Means in Korea

What does November 11th mean in Korea?

It was November 11th, 2010. As most of us know: Remembrance Day. A day upon which Canadians consider the sacrifices made by others so that we can enjoy the way of life we know today. It is not a day when people brag about who won what war when, but when we remember what we’ve lost; brothers, fathers, sisters, countrymen, allies and foes from all over the world. Put simply, it is a day when we recognize the bravery of those who fought so we didn’t have to.

I went to my school that day with the intention of teaching my students why November 11th was so important, and what it meant to so many people around the world. Waiting in my classroom, I prepared to impart on the children a piece of western culture that carries a deep and solemn meaning. I wanted to get this right.

There was a knock at the door.  I opened the door revealing a student. His bright smile juxtaposed my serious countenance. “Teacher,” he said. “Do you know what day it is today?”

I couldn’t help but be pleased. He knew that today was special. I nodded my head, “why yes, today is…”

“PEPERO DAY!!!!!!!!!”, he screamed out.

(insert record scratching sound)


The student did two leaps for joy and bounded past this dumbstruck teacher. What did this Pepero word mean?

Pepero (n.): A thin baked stick covered in chocolate, eaten as a treat.
(almost identical to Pocky from Japan)


Pepero Sticks in Korea
Chocolate-covered and chocolate with almond-covered pepero sticks.

Alright, let’s go back a little bit. Apparently some odd years ago, the company that made Pepero wasn’t doing so well. Their product just wasn’t selling and they needed a marketing stunt to save their beloved chocolate sticks. Well, some genius in Pepero-land recognized that the calendar date of 11/11 closely resembled four of their products placed upright, side by side. Buoyed by the fact that Koreans have consumerism built right into their calendar (the 14th of every month calls for gifts for your significant other), Pepero hit a home run and their product gets the Easter egg treatment once every year.

There was no point in even trying to explain Remembrance Day now. This was a battle I couldn’t win.

So next time you pin that poppy over your heart, enjoy a tasty chocolate treat while you’re at it.

“ Pepero: The stick that never forgets.”


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