November 5, 2009 / 7:24 AM / 9 years ago

South Korea asks youth to spread love through rice

A man holds a handful of rice as he poses for the photographer in a rice factory in Jiaosi, Ilan County, April 7, 2008. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Love is a sweet rice cake stick, or that is what South Korea’s farm ministry would like the country’s romantically minded to believe.

The ministry is trying to muscle into a popular local tradition where young people show their affection by exchanging chocolate stick candy on November 11, which was chosen because the “11/11” calendar note looks like four of the sticks.

The chocolate stick is called pepero and its special day was a stroke of marketing genius by a confectionary company that has turned November 11 into a monument of mass consumption for its product.

The government thinks candy may be nice, but the day is better celebrated with rice — or the traditional rice cake stick called “garaetteok.”

“This will promote the consumption of rice cakes made with our own rice,” said ministry official Lee Joo-young.

The ministry has created cute mascots and plans rice cake games to mark the day. It is also appealing to patriotic spirit.

“Some of those chocolate sticks are exported from China,” Lee said.

Reporting by Christine Kim; writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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