Sibwonppang, otherwise known as the 10-won bread, is facing a design overhaul after the Bank of Korea (BOK) called out the snack’s manufacturers for violating its regulations on replicated monetary layouts.
Sibwonppang is a bready street snack filled with cheese, sold in tourist areas of Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang for around 3,000 won ($2). It resembles an enlarged version of a 10-won coin that was first produced in 1966.
“Currently, we are negotiating with sibwonppang manufacturers to come up with adequate altercations to the bread’s design,” an official from the BOK told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Thursday. “As of right now, we do not have plans for legal action against sibwonppang manufacturers.”
The BOK prohibits the use of notes and coins’ designs for commercial purposes.
“If money designs are indiscriminately used for commercial purposes, it can be a factor that gives way to counterfeiting and deteriorate the dignity and reliability of currency,” the BOK said in a press release on Wednesday, following local reports a day before speculating that BOK was preparing a lawsuit against sibwonppang manufacturers.
One may ask the BOK for special permission to use a money layout for profit, but even if permission is granted, the layout can only be used for up to six months, according to the Banks’ Criteria for Using Designs for Bank of Korea’s Bills and Coins. Failing to meet this deadline is a violation of the Copyright Act and entitles the BOK to pursue appropriate legal action.
Sibwonppang rose to popularity around 2019 in Gyeongju, largely through social media where posts of stretchy mozzarella cheese overflowing from the bread pocket went viral. Sellers have recently begun to pop up in the greater Seoul area as well.
The part that makes the cheesy bread a regional specialty lies in its design which has an engraving of Gyeongju’s landmark, Dabotap Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple from the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to A.D. 935) on the front. The back side has the number 10 and the words “The Bank of Korea 1966.”
The BOK has been telling sibwonppang manufacturers to change the design for over a year now, but some have refused to follow through.
“We did discuss possibilities of a lawsuit, last year when a sibwonppang company refused to change the design after a whole year of us asking them to do it,” the BOK official said.
But the sibwonppang manufacturers aren’t actually the ones at fault here.
The BOK confirmed recent local reports which claimed that the manufacturers legally downloaded the coin’s layout on Korea Open Government License, a platform that allows anyone to freely use files like images and videos belonging to the government or public institutions that are posted on the site.
The image was uploaded on the platform by the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation in 2018.
“The image shouldn’t have been up on that site in the first place,” said the BOK official. “It belongs to us and the platform should have asked us for permission to post the image on their site instead of the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation. We’ve asked the Korea Open Government License to either categorize the image under the section for items that are not allowed to be used for commercial purposes or take it down.”
The coin design in question has since been removed from the platform.
So will the revised sibwonppang still be a sibwonppang?
The BOK said that the bread can keep its name as well as the number 10, but the iconic Dabotap Pagoda may have to go.
“We’ve directed the manufacturers that the new design should bear no clear resemblance to the actual coin, and that may mean a different landmark engraving or words,” the BOK official said.
It is unlikely that the design change will negatively impact store owners, as most of them nowadays are chains.
“I’ve been told by the brand’s headquarters that they will provide me with a new metal mold soon,” said a sibwonppang store owner in Gyeongju. “I’m not too concerned about the design change,” said another sibwonppang store owner, also in Gyeongju. “I don’t think it is going to negatively impact us workers. Gyeongju’s sibwonppang is already so famous that I think people will still associate it with here [Gyeongju], even with the modifications to the design. Also, the bread is delicious and the taste isn’t going anywhere!”
BY JIAN LEE [email@example.com]