November 11th is Pepero Day in Korea, a unique holiday when Koreans share and eat Pepero – chocolate-covered sticks that resemble the number 1. Pepero Day started as a simple promotional date for Lotte, the manufacturers of Pepero, but has now grown into a nationwide phenomenon that rivals Easter for chocolate intake.
The story of Pepero Day goes back decades and the event has moved from the classrooms of Korean high schools into all corners of Korean society. As Pepero Day spread across the country, the varieties of Pepero also increased, with many interesting, delicious, or bizarre flavours appearing each year.
The story of Pepero Day isn’t all sweet, however. There are dark parts of the origin of Pepero Day in Korea, including a deep rivalry with a close neighbour, a battle between corporate giants, and an origin story that has been lost over time.
If you’re interested in learning about this facet of Korean culture, what the Pepero Game is, and how and why Koreans celebrate Pepero Day in Korea, then grab a coffee and something sweet (preferably Pepero) and enjoy the read.
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What Is Pepero Day In Korea?
If you’re reading this article on November 11th, then I hope you have a very happy Pepero Day!
On November 11th, 2023, Koreans up and down the country indulge in the most delicious, chocolatey holiday in Korea. That’s because November 11th is Pepero Day in Korea – a day when Koreans (and I) indulge in chocolate-covered sticks that (apparently) make you slim.
Pepero Day (빼빼로 데이) is a day when friends, colleagues, and lovers gift boxes of Pepero to each other as a way to express their friendship or love for the other person. The holiday could be described as a crossover between Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Friendship Day.
The tall, wide Pepero boxes come with space to write a personalised message on the back, allowing declarations of friendship, encouragement, or even admissions of secret admiration to be shared.
Whilst Pepero Day is a gift giving holiday, there’s also plenty of self-indulgence going on. It could be considered a singles holiday as well, as people can buy Pepero for themselves to enjoy. I freely admit to buying several boxes of Pepero before and after Pepero Day each year.
This holiday has been running since the late 1990’s and Pepero Day celebrations continue to grow each year. The variety of Pepero snacks that are available also expand with new flavours and styles being released annually.
Pepero Day should not be mistaken for Pocky Day, which is a very similar holiday in Japan that is based on an extremely similar chocolate-coated snack. Both Pepero Day in Korea and Pocky Day in Japan are on November 11th. Is that a coincidence? I’ll explain more about this hot topic later on.
Korean Travel Essentials
Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money on your Korean adventure.
Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA): Most countries need a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Apply before you travel only with the Official K-ETA Site.
Flights To Korea: Look around before you book flights. I recommend flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner for the best flights to Korea.
Hotels In Korea: Staying in Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). Get the best hotel prices with Klook and Agoda.
Tours In Korea: Find the best tours in Korea with tour companies that have a big presence in Korea, including Klook, Trazy, and Get Your Guide.
Staying Connected: Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a Portable WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport. Collection desks are open 24 hours.
Travel Money: Exchange foreign currency in Myeongdong or at a WOW exchange machine. Pick up a Wise or Revolut travel money card for the best rates and convenient card payments.
Transportation: Get a T-Money Card to pay for public transport. If you plan to use Korea’s high speed trains, save money and get unlimited rides with a Korea Rail Pass.
Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a limo bus to other parts of Seoul. Don’t want to carry heavy suitcases? Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.
Learning Korean: Want to learn Korean before you travel? I recommend 90 Day Korean as they have well-structured lessons and loads of useful resources.
How To Say Happy Pepero Day In Korean
If you’re in Korea and want to wish someone a Happy Pepero Day, or you want to write a message on a box of Pepero and gift it to someone, you can use the following Korean:
“빼빼로데이 축하해요!” – Happy Pepero Day!
If you can’t read hangul (Korean alphabet), it sounds like:
Want to know how to respond to someone wishing you a Happy Pepero Day? Check out these basic Korean phrases and get started on the essentials of learning Korean.
What Are Pepero?
Pepero are basically chocolate-covered thin biscuit sticks that you can nibble slowly, dunk into a coffee, use to poke your friends, or stick in your mouth to pretend to be a vampire.
A single box of Pepero costs about 1,500 KRW and is about the same price as a regular chocolate bar or sweet snack. It’s an inexpensive gift, which probably accounts for its popularity.
What Pepero Flavours Are There?
Pepero are very versatile and fun and come in an increasing number of different flavours and styles. Every year there seems to be new Pepero coming out that offer different tastes, shapes, and sizes to the original tall, thin Pepero.
One flavour that could be a big hit recently is the dalgona flavour (pictured below). Dalgona shot to global fame (notoriety) thanks to Netflix’s Squid Game series. Don’t worry, though, you won’t be in danger eating these Pepero!
Here’s some of the different flavours of Pepero you can try in Korea. There are more flavours than just those below and new ones coming out each year. The most common ones are in the left hand column while the more unique ones are in the right hand column.
|green tea||melon||peanuts & pretzels|
|white chocolate cookie||peanut||peanut butter|
|black chocolate cookie||black chocolate||mint chocolate|
|blueberry yogurt||cherry||yakult yogurt|
Which flavours of Pepero do you want to try? Below are three of the most popular flavours of Pepero – original chocolate Pepero (red box), white cookie Pepero (white box), and almond Pepero (green box). These flavours are so popular, they were chosen for the 2023 artist edition Pepero boxes.
Personally, I think the original (red box) are the best type of Pepero. It’s so easy to munch a whole box with a cup of coffee and they’re always available (even on Pepero Day). I also like the double dipped white and milk chocolate Pepero. They give you more chocolate and are great for dunking in coffee.
Different Versions Of Pepero
Pepero come in many different forms. The original version of Pepero is the chocolate-coated biscuit sticks. These days there are several different ways Pepero are produced, including an ice cream version that replaces the biscuit stick with vanilla ice cream. The ice cream Pepero bar comes in a variety of flavours, including original and almond-coated.
Here are some of the other varieties of Pepero that you can find in Korea.
Original Pepero: Chocolate-coated biscuit sticks with a variety of different flavours, including original, almond, and cookies & cream.
Nude Pepero: These are similar to the original Pepero, however, the chocolate coating is now in the centre and the biscuit is on the outside.
Double Dip Pepero: These Pepero are similar to original Pepero, but have two coatings instead of one. They’re also shorter and fatter (due to the extra coating).
Super Sized Pepero: Giant Pepero that are much taller and thicker than the original Pepero. There are only a few in each box and are more expensive.
Jelly Pepero: One of the least Pepero-like versions of Pepero. Instead of having a layer of biscuit and a layer of chocolate, jelly Pepero have two layers of jelly. The outer jelly is a chocolate-vanilla flavour while the inner jelly is a milk chocolate flavour.
Bap Pop Pepero: On the coating of these special rice-biscuit Pepero are popping candy pieces that explode in your mouth. The word bap means rice in Korean, but might also be a reference to B.A.P. – a famous K-Pop group that famously played the Pepero Game in 2015.
What is the Pepero Game? Find out next.
What Is The Pepero Game?
The Pepero Game, or Pepero Kiss Game is a game where two people each place one end of a Pepero in their mouth and take turns biting the Pepero until their lips come closer and closer together. It’s like a Korean version of The Lady and The Tramp spaghetti scene.
The Pepero Game is played in teams of two people. Each team will try to get eat as much of the Pepero as possible without kissing their partner. The object of the Pepero Game is for your team to have the shortest Pepero at the end.
If the two contestants are willing to get very close to each other, they have the best chance of winning. That’s why this is also called the Pepero Kiss Game.
Who Makes Pepero?
Pepero are made by the Lotte Corporation – one of Korea’s big conglomerates that seem to make everything (like Samsung & LG). The history of how they came up with the idea for Pepero is more than a little controversial, something I’ll cover later on.
Although Pepero Day is massively commercialised, it’s still a nice day that is all about giving gifts to friends, and receiving delicious snacks. Pepero Day can bring a bit of happiness to the world.
Now it’s time to learn more about the dark history of Pepero and how it fuelled the fight between two East-Asian superpowers.
How Did Pepero Day Get Started?
So how did Koreans end up eating Pepero on November 11th every year?
Actually, the truth isn’t that clear, it’s been lost in the folds of time as so many other traditions and superstitions tend to be.
The version from Lotte is that it all started in the 1980s when school girls gave each other Pepero in the hope that they would both become tall and thin like the snack itself.
I’m not sure if they actually wanted to look that tall and thin, nor how a sugary snack is meant to help you become thinner. That’s the story that sounds the nicest for marketing execs and advertisers, though.
Therefore, that’s what Lotte sells everyone – a dream of being tall and thin like a Pepero.
In fact, to become tall and thin, you must eat 11 packets of Pepero at exactly 11 seconds past 11:11 am and 11:11 pm on November 11th.
Are you up for the challenge on Pepero Day in Korea this year?
An alternative explanation is that the Pepero sticks resemble the number 1. There are certainly more 1’s on November 11th (11/11) than any other date, so this must be the time to eat Pepero! Whatever the truth, Pepero Day in Korea is big business for Lotte. 50% of all Pepero sales occur during this time.
So what makes Pepero Day’s history so controversial? Let me explain.
Pepero Day Vs Pocky Day: A Dark History
I first knew November 11th as Pocky Day as I lived in Japan before I lived in Korea. Pocky, as you can see from the picture above, are kind of identical to Pepero. There is actually a bit of controversy surrounding the two products.
Glico launched Pocky in 1966, 17 years before Lotte ‘created’ Pepero in 1983. When Lotte decided to sell Pepero, Glico tried to stop them, arguing it was a blatant copy of Pocky. Which it certainly was, as you can see.
However, Lotte argued that because Pocky weren’t sold in Korea at that time, there was no copyright infringement. Yeah, not sure that would stick in most countries, but it saved Lotte and they were allowed to keep making Pepero.
There’s another twist here, though… Pepero Day came before Pocky Day!
Pepero Day started in the 1980’s and was officially recognised as a special day in Korea in 1997. Glico saw the massive money this could make and Pocky Day became officially recognised in Japan in 1999 – two years after Pepero Day.
So both companies have benefited from this strange case of copyright infringement and stealing ideas from each other. Whatever, we all win as now we can celebrate Pepero Day in Korea or Pocky Day in Japan, or whichever you want. Both are on sale in Korea, so choose your side wisely.
Now it’s time to see how to celebrate Pepero Day and embrace some delicious Korean culture.
How To Celebrate Pepero Day In Korea
If you’re living in or visiting Korea, then why not join in with the gift giving? Pepero are fairly cheap – just 1,5000 KRW for a box – and are certainly a lot more affordable than a big box of chocolates.
It’s not hard to find Pepero in the weeks before Pepero Day, just head to any convenience store or supermarket and you’ll see massive displays of Pepero and other appropriate gifts to go with them, as pictured above.
There are many special boxes of Pepero for Pepero Day. There are ones where you can write a secret message for a friend or even a crush! You can even find giant Pepero that will go down well with a loved one, apparently.
It is common to give a box of Pepero to co-workers, friends, teachers, or students. It’s similar to the red money envelopes given during New Year in China, but cheaper. I’ve received a couple of boxes at work, and shared with friends. I look forward to enjoying them with a coffee very soon.
If you want to be a mystery Pepero gifter, sneak some boxes of Pepero onto your co-worker’s desks, place them in front of your neighbour’s door, or leave some giant Pepero for your crush.
Or leave a lovely message and confess your feelings on a day with less romantic obligations than Valentine’s Day. You could also accompany the gift with some nice accessories, such as cute stationery, small snacks, or a hard enamel pin, which are great for sticking on backpacks and clothes to create a unique look.
How I Celebrate Pepero Day
I am a self-confessed coffee addict and I certainly have a bit of a sweet tooth! Therefore, what I love doing on Pepero Day, as I’m actually doing right now, is to have a coffee with a whole box of delicious Pepero all to myself.
One of my co-workers was kind enough to give me a box (my 4th) and I will enjoy that while thinking what to write about next. That’s the wonderful thing about this holiday – it’s all about giving and eating. What could be better?
If you’re in Korea, or have a chance to get some Pepero or Pocky, why not make a hot drink and dunk the Pepero inside for a few seconds so the chocolate melts and creates a heavenly mix of coffee and cacao.
Choose from one of the dozens of flavours that are now available, there’s something for everyone. Be tall and thin like a Pepero, but maybe don’t eat 11 boxes at once or you might regret it!
Curious About Korean Culture?
I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to a fun bit of Korean culture. If you’re interested in learning more about Korean culture and etiquette, then you’ll love these guides I’ve put together after years of living in Korea.
First, learn about exciting Facts About Korea, including many things you probably didn’t know about the Land of the Rising Sun (including why it’s called that). Then, be sure to check out my Korean Etiquette Guide with lots of interesting tips about how to avoid social faux pas in Korea.
If you’re curious about what Expat Life in Korea is like, then read about my experiences and what’s good and bad about living in Korea. Then, find out why the Korean Fan Death Myth makes so many people in Korea uncomfortable in summer, even when the fans should be keeping everyone cool.
Where To buy Pepero Outside Of Korea
Feeling hungry and want to try these delicious Korean snacks but don’t live in Korea? Good news! You can order Pepero online and eat them whenever you like (no need to wait for Pepero Day). I certainly indulge in Pepero throughout the year as they’re a great snack and there are often new flavours.
Here are two ways to buy Pepero if you’re outside of Korea.
1: You can buy Pepero online from large online retailers. There are usually Pepero, as well as Pocky, the Japanese version of Pepero, available in online stores such as Amazon and Walmart. For those in Singapore and other parts of Asia, you can buy Pepero from an online retailer like Lazada.
2: For those who want to know more about the incredible treats that Korea has to offer beyond just Pepero, then I’d recommend trying the Seoul Box. The Seoul Box is packed full of Korean snacks for you to try without the hassle of flying all the way over to Korea to sample.
3: Another great way to get Korean snacks and goodies is through the Daebak Box. The Daebak Box ships quarterly and contains a selection of Korean foods, cosmetics, lifestyle and culture products, and lots more. Check out my Daebak Box review right now to find out all the details.
Whilst you’re here and probably hungry, why not check out some of my other mouth-watering articles about Korean food. You’ll find lots of ideas for things to try when you visit Korea, including many dishes you may not even know about.
From the best traditional Korean dishes that you’ll definitely want to check out when you visit Korea, to some weird Korean foods that might not be on your bucket list, unless you’re brave enough. If you’re visiting in winter, then I recommend trying some warming Korean winter street food.
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Pepero Day FAQs
Finally, in case this article has left you with more questions about Pepero Day in Korea, here’s a few FAQs to help you out.
Did Pocky Day Or Pepero Day Come First?
Pepero Day was first officially celebrated in Korea in 1997. Pocky Day was first officially celebrated in Japan 2 years later in 1999. However, Glico, a Japanese company, started producing Pocky in 1966, 17 years before Lotte created Pepero. There is some controversy between Pepero and Pocky, with Glico claiming that Lotte copied Pocky when they created Pepero.
Which Company Makes Pepero?
Pepero are made by the Lotte Company. Lotte is a large Korean conglomerate that makes many different products and owns hotels, department stores, and many other businesses.
What Day Is Pepero Day In Korea?
Pepero Day in Korea is on November 11th. The first Pepero Day was officially celebrated in 1997 in Korea. There are many explanations about why this date was chosen, including the idea that the tall, thin Pepero resemble the number 1 and November 11th (11/11) is like four Pepero lined up together. Another story is that Korean schoolgirls ate Pepero to become tall and thin, like the shape of a Pepero.
What Country Are Pepero From?
Pepero are originally from South Korea but are now sold around the world. There are many different types of Pepero for sale in Korea, including the original chocolate coated sticks, ‘nude’ sticks with fillings inside, ‘double-dipped’ sticks with two flavours, and many more.
Can I Buy Pocky In Korea?
Yes, you can buy Pocky in Korea at convenience stores and supermarkets. However, as Pocky is a Japanese brand, and Pepero are Korean, you’ll find Pepero for sale in many more places. Both are available and enjoyed during Pepero Day in Korea.
When Is Pepero Day In Korea?
Pepero Day is celebrated in Korea on November 11th. The date (11/11) is said to resemble the shape of Pepero, which are tall and thin like the number 1.