Kellogg’s Korea on Wednesday will finally release a green onion-flavoured breakfast cereal in what has been hailed as a “victory for democracy”.
It is the end of a 16-year wait for campaigners for a product that was never meant to be manufactured.
The onion flavour was part of what was supposed to be a fun poll for children to select a new breakfast cereal flavour in 2004, hosted by Kellogg Korea. The poll was supposed to be a foregone conclusion: it never expected the pungent flavour to defeat chocolate.
Kellogg Korea’s “presidential election” presented two “candidate” flavours for Chex, a popular breakfast cereal: “Chekkie,” representing a more chocolatey version of the existing cereal, and green onion-flavoured rival “Chakka.”
Soon after polls opened, Chakka shot ahead of its rival to become what was expected to be the new cereal flavour. But allegations of online ballot stuffing arose, leading Kellogg Korea to intervene and invalidate some 42 thousand votes considered fraudulent. Even then, Chakka was still in the lead.
In a desperate attempt to make Chekkie win, the company opened up telephone voting as well as an offline polling station at Lotte World, a popular amusement park in Seoul. Chekkie the chocolatey cereal was eventually declared the winner.
South Koreans decried foul play.
The breakfast cereal vote rigging scandal was more than just a funny incident: observers said it was also a reminder of the fragility of the democracy South Koreans fought so hard for and cherish to this very day. Flavour-elect Chekkie was reminiscent of decades of dictatorship that so many older South Koreans had experienced until 1987, with Chakka going down in internet history as a victim of election fraud, and a symbol of the fight for democracy.
It therefore came as a surprise when Kellogg Korea announced that it would release the green onion-flavoured Chex cereal “after 16 years of waiting”. At one point, “Chex green onion” became the top trending topic on Twitter in Korean. Many hailed the product launch as a “victory for democracy”.
An advert publicising the new limited-edition cereal portrays the broken dreams of a young boy who was misled into thinking he would actually get a green onion-flavoured cereal back in 2004, still crying 16 years later.
The clip also features popular trot singer Tae Jin-ah singing a modified version of his 1990 classic “I’m sorry”, repeatedly apologising for the delay in getting the green onion flavour cereal on the market.
In one lyric, Tae says: “We will stick to our promise, even if it [the cereal] doesn’t sell.”