In these days of globalization there are very few countries that can keep themselves shrouded in a veil of mystery like North Korea does. Although there is information out there, it can be hard to get a clear picture of what life is like in such a guarded nation. For example, how do they eat?
North Korea would never allow Western businesses like McDonald’s or KFC to get their greedy capitalist hands on its people, but that doesn’t mean they reject the fast food format itself. In February, 2012, one lucky Japanese traveler in Pyongyang was able to experience what a North Korean fast food shop was like first-hand and document it.
After getting his guide to do him a big favor, the traveler, who goes by the handle Kuzo, was taken to a hamburger joint equipped with all the familiar trappings: hamburgers, hotdogs, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, French fries, and even waffles.
The prices on the menu were in North Korean Won but, surprisingly, they were open to taking any major currency at simple rates, like Yen, US Dollars, or Euros. For example, if you were to buy a hamburger costing 180 won (€1.04), you could pay for it with €1.80. A combo with a hamburger, fried chicken, and coffee for 532 won (€3.08) cost €5.30 on this trip.
According to Kuzo, “The hamburgers weren’t quite up to snuff, but the fried chicken was delicious with a nice crispy coating. Also, since they gave me a little plastic glove to eat my chicken, my hands didn’t get all greasy. I thought it was a pleasant little surprise to the whole experience.”
As he ate, Kuzo couldn’t shake the feeling that this store caters only to the tastes of Westerners with their free-wheeling currency policy and the fact that only two local people came into the store while he was eating there. Given that Westerners in North Korea are few and far between, it’s hard to image how this restaurant stays afloat.
Aside from the lack of business that Western fast food establishments often enjoy, this place recreated them fairly well with a few exceptions. The décor is a throwback to the 1980’s and their coffee is served in a very Asian-looking cup. On top of that, there seems to be an electricity issue since the heater wasn’t on. This can be a fatal blow for any restaurant. No matter how the food tastes, no one can enjoy a meal in -15℃ weather.
▼Most days the temperature was 10-15℃
▼The interior design is similar to Western restaurants, only a little outdated.
▼Where cultures meet: A Japanese register with some Chinese straws.
▼Their menu offers a wide selection.
▼They even have combos! But supersizing hasn’t reached here yet.
[ Read in Japanese ]