Burgers, fast food coming to North Korea
Where's the beef? At North Korean fast-food joint
By KELLY OLSEN, Associated Press Writer Kelly Olsen, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jul 30, 2009
SEOUL, South Korea - You want kimchi with that?
The first fast-food joint has opened in North Korea, serving up
burgers, fries and beer in Pyongyang, and the locals are lovin' it so
much that more are planned for the communist capital.
And it's not just junk food. Other symbols of Western capitalism are
sprouting up - including a beer commercial on state TV and a
convenience store that reportedly was visited in April by leader Kim
Impoverished and isolated North Korea likes to boast of its nuclear
weapons and regularly threatens the U.S. and South Korea should they
dare invade. Still, it is offering citizens of its capital some of
the commonplace delights of its sworn enemies.
The Samtaesong fast-food restaurant, which reportedly opened last
month, serves up very American fare: hamburgers, french fries,
waffles and draft beer. Also on the menu: kimchi, the spicy pickled
cabbage that Koreans love. It plans to add croissants and hot dogs.
"It is not so long since its opening, but our restaurant has become
popular among our people and foreigners," manager Ko Jong Ok told
broadcaster APTN in Pyongyang on Thursday. "We are planning to set up
branches in many places of the city in the future."
APTN video showed the staff, mostly young women, in orange aprons and
white hats cooking hamburgers and french fries.
The restaurant appeared to be styled after fast-food joints the world
over, with the menu pictured above the counter. Several North Koreans
were seen ordering and others eating at tables, although more seats
were empty than filled.
One British customer said he was satisfied.
"I think it is very clean and I think every effort has been made to
present the food very well," George Bottomley told APTN.
Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper viewed as a mouthpiece for the
North Korean government, reported last week that the restaurant
opened in June in cooperation with a Singaporean company that it did
not identify. The company provided training to the staff and supplied
A hamburger costs $1.70, Choson Sinbo said. That is more than half of
the daily income of the average North Korean.
North Korea has relied on outside handouts to feed its 24 million
people since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its
economy in the 1990s and helped cause a famine. Its government
strictly controls information about the outside world.
Residents of Pyongyang are considered the most affluent in North
Korea, where the government has in recent years introduced limited
market reforms in an apparent effort to ease hardship and raise
And just so patrons of the fast-food restaurant don't forget who's
the boss, a sign outside reads, "Long live the Songun revolution
ideology." Songun, which means "military first," is one of Kim's key
policies calling for giving priority to North Korea's armed forces.
Choson Sinbo reported this month that Kim, known for his taste for
expensive cognac and sushi, bought five bottles of "makgeolli," a
milky Korean liquor, and other drinks at the convenience store in
Also this month, state TV aired what is believed to be North Korea's
first beer commercial, a nearly three-minute ad that followed a news
It showed a grinning, sweaty man holding a glass of beer. A caption
read, "Taedong River Beer is the pride of Pyongyang."
The commercial said the beer relieves stress and improves health and
longevity. The clip also showed a pub in Pyongyang filled with
State TV also showed footage Wednesday from South Korean TV programs
that had been edited to highlight social and economic problems in the
far richer South. The move was apparently aimed at quashing rumors
among North Koreans that the rival country - a major economic success
story and member of the Group of 20 nations - is better off.
Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang and Kwang-tae Kim contributed
to this report.