Candy is Life: Korea, 1952

December 2, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

In the 1950s, Edward R. Murrow was the nation’s pre-eminent television journalist. His CBS program See it Now pioneered the TV newsmagazine format that spawned familiar programs like “60 Minutes” and “20/20.”

Detail of a Map of Korea

Murrow was suspicious of the new medium of television, and insisted his program actively involve itself in the issues of the day. To insure the most engaged and accurate reporting See It Now maintained its own camera crews to coordinate filming on location and used 35mm- cameras to record the most striking images.

In a March 1952 report from Korea, “See it Now” reporter George Herman focused on the effects on the civilian population of the Korean War, which was entering its third year. Candy was part of the story.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the candy industry and candy enthusiasts had promoted candy as “good food” and a good source of energy. In times of plenty, candy was consumed along side all sorts of other foods, and the emphasis was on enjoyment and pleasure. The positive message about candy was something like: Candy is good energy food, so why not enjoy it?

But when the economy was down, candy for many was more than just pleasure and fun. Candy was also, calorie for calorie, incredibly cheap. During the years of the depression, candy bars with food names like Lunch Bar and Chicken Dinner suggested that for many, a candy bar was a way to sate hunger in the place of a proper mean. By the 1940s, candy bars were being fortified with vitamins and sold as “packed with nutrition.”

Even in America’s darkest hours, candy always promoted a positive, fun image of enjoyment and pleasure. “See it Now” put candy eating in a different light.

Herman explained,

Candy is no joke in Korea. In a country where people just barely survive the winter every year, where sugar is scarce and calories are counted in tens rather than in hundreds, candy can mean the difference between surviving and succumbing to tuberculosis or pneumonia or some of the other deaths that cold and poverty reap per year.

As Herman described the suffering of Korea’s population and their economic hardship, the camera showed images of Korean children, scrambling for candy.

In the first and second World Wars, American soldiers would often carry candy to give out to civilians as a gesture of friendship and good will. The reporting from Korea suggested a more disturbing and desperate story. For those Koreans who were lucky enough to grab something in the candy scramble, candy wasn’t just a treat. Candy was, in wartime, life itself.

Source: Candy Industry April 1952, p. 1

Entry filed under: War, WWII to 1960s. Tags: , , , .

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

(C) Samira Kawash

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