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Archive for Friday, July 31, 2009

Where’s the beef? At the North Korean fast-food joint

July 31, 2009

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Restaurant staff cook hamburgers Thursday at North Korea’s first fast-food restaurant, the Samtaeseong in Pyongyang, in this video image taken from footage of broadcaster APTN. North Korea’s first fast-food restaurant has become quickly popular among the locals and foreigners in Pyongyang and plans to have branches in the future, a restaurant manager said Thursday.

Restaurant staff cook hamburgers Thursday at North Korea’s first fast-food restaurant, the Samtaeseong in Pyongyang, in this video image taken from footage of broadcaster APTN. North Korea’s first fast-food restaurant has become quickly popular among the locals and foreigners in Pyongyang and plans to have branches in the future, a restaurant manager said Thursday.

— 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 Jong Il.

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 equipment.

A hamburger costs $1.70, Choson Sinbo said. That is more than half of the daily income of the average North Korean.

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