Chocopies, a South Korean confectionary, became one of the most desirable consumer products in North Korea, ever since they were gifted by South Korean workers to their peers from the North at the jointly managed Kaesong Industrial Complex. South Korean activists even used helium balloons to launch thousands of Chocopies over the DMZ border into North Korea, some with messages of love and care. It has thus become a cultural symbol of Korean compassion and cooperation.
For Korean artist Mina Cheon, the symbolic gesture of eating Chocopie represents “taking a bite for peace.” In addition to the physical “Eat Chocopie Together” art installation in 2021 for the inaugural Asia Society Triennial (October 27, 2020 - June 27, 2021), this website presents a special virtual version as a part of the Triennial. While in the past, Cheon's "Eat Chocopie Together" was about physically eating it onsite at the exhibition, the virtual chocopie strengthens the focus of sharing it together virtually for the sake of love, peace, and unity... leading up to the actual installation before the end of the Triennial where everyone is welcomed. The virtual Chocopie sharing also helps raise automatic funds to help those in need during our time of the pandemic crisis.
Responding to the socially distant conditions of our time and the global devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic at a time where compassion and humanity is much needed for healing, this initiative hopes to allow anyone, from anywhere, to extend love and peace in the time of the Coronavirus by virtually sharing and enjoying Chocopies with friends, families, and loved ones. There are five different Chocopie designs specially created by the artist to represent important aspects of this virtual exchange: LOVE, PEACE, SHARE, EAT, UNITE. For the artist, the message of inter-Korean peace extends to America.
UPDATE: October 2020 - We have achieved our campaign goal! Thank you to all who participated. This "Eat Chocopie Together" website will remain active, so please continue to share Chocopies.
“Eat Chocopie Together” is also a crowdsourcing charity campaign where the participation from the public alone generates an automatic donation: for each Chocopie shared between two friends, $2 will be donated in their names to the non-profit charity, the Korean American Community Foundation COVID-19 Community Action Fund, up to a total of $5,000. An anonymous donor has already made a generous pledge to support.
In March, the Korean American Community Foundation launched their COVID-19 Community Action Fund to provide immediate and long-term support to their nonprofit partners, organizations that are working in the frontline of this pandemic to provide essential services to the most vulnerable Korean Americans. The funds will be used to spearhead urgent relief efforts for individuals and families affected by COVID-19, including Korean language assistance in completing unemployment and small business applications, increased domestic violence counseling, meal delivery, a Korean language COVID-19 health hotline, mental health support, emergency cash assistance for those excluded from federal emergency payments, and shelter for homeless Korean Americans. With the funds, KACF will also support the important work to address growing anti-Asian racism in our community. Learn more about the charity fund here.
"Eat Chocopie Together" is made possible by the generosity of the Korea Foundation, and an anonymous donor to the Korean American Community Foundation.
Mina Cheon (천민정 PhD, MFA) is a global Korean new media artist, scholar, and educator who divides her time between Korea and the United States. Cheon has exhibited her political pop art known as “Polipop” internationally and draws inspiration from global media and popular culture to produce work that intersects politics and pop art in evocative ways. While she creates work that ranges in medium from new media, video, installation, performance, and public projects to traditional media of painting and sculptures, the content of the work is in historic alignment to appropriation art and global activism art. Cheon is currently a Full-time Professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland.
Cheon’s thematic focus includes geopolitical and contested spaces, race culture and postcolonialism, and Asia’s relationship to the Western world in global media culture and reflects the transgenerational trauma of Korea’s history, of its division and war and of Japanese colonization. Having parents originate from the North and herself part of the Korean global diaspora, Cheon’s art results from a life-time of working with a cultural comparative lens and understanding Asia through its power relations with the world. In particular, she has worked on North Korean awareness, Korean unification and reconciliation efforts, and global peace projects since 2004.
As an artist, while assuming different artistic pseudonyms for the past twenty years such as Minaliza1000, M-1000, Jae Son, Cheon’s latest avatar and alter ego is a North Korean artist named KIM IL SOON who made her first international public appearance at the Pulse Art Fair NY in 2013.
Cheon's states, "As a Korean, the idea of having two artistic identities, South Korean Mina Cheon and North Korean Kim Il Soon, is an obvious reflection on the country’s state of being divided. It makes all the sense in the world that if a country is split so should the artist in practice."
While Cheon’s “Video Art History Lessons by Professor Kim” has been sent into North Korea since 2017 by USB drives and SD cards, the chocopie installation promotes her global artistic activism to bring awareness about the state of Koreas that has been working towards peace. “Eat Chocopie Together” became a national sensation when it was featured at the 2018 Busan Biennale in Korea; even the South Korean President Moon Jae-in and First Lady Kim Jung-sook visited to eat Chocopie together amidst Korea’s media buzz and slogan for “A New Future” of Korea. Learn more about Mina Cheon at her website.