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24-Hour Burger Joint Comes to… North Korea?!


Despite food shortages across North Korea, a hamburger franchise has opened in its capital! Samtaesung (Food) and Cool Beverages has been operating in Pyongyang’s Kaesun Park since last June to much fanfare. “One has to make a reservation one day in advance in order to eat there at any time between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.,” a resident was reported saying.

Though “long lines” are allegedly seen “at all times” in front of the restaurant serving quintessentially American fast food, don’t expect McDonald’s to set up shop anytime soon. Aware of the dangers of capitalism and soft power, North Korean authorities have shrewdly rejected using English names of products, which is the case in South Korea. Instead, they have rebranded hamburgers as “minced meat and bread,” and waffles as “baked dough.”

So how does the magic meal happen? Flour is imported from China. Profits from Samtaesung, of course, are directed into the pocket of Kim Kyong Hui, sister of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. The restaurant’s menu has been reported to be 228 North Korean won, or over $2 U.S. dollars. A Pyongyang resident claimed that customers could pay with North Korean won, U.S. dollars, euros, or Chinese yuan. All this sounds highly suspect, as Radio Free Asia mentions $2 U.S. dollars is “outside of the budget of the average citizen.”

This isn’t, however, the first time that burgers have been served in North Korea. Travel blogger Linsday Fincher recounts eating at Pyolmuri Cafe, the first foreign-owned cafe in Pyongyang. That’s right — foreign! Started by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and a Swiss retail financer, this bakery and restaurant was opened in 2005, serving burgers, pizza, and milkshakes.

Says Fincher of her hamburger and milkshake meal:

It was the strangest milkshake I have ever had. It tasted like lukewarm milk with a scoop of chocolate flavoredwhey protein. Yech. Along with the glass of milk-like fluid, the waitresses gave me two small saucers, one filled with sugar, and the other filled with an unknown substance, which I proceeded to dump into the glass. Hilariously, the rim of the milkshake glass was covered in sugar, so it looked like some bizarre margarita.

The burger was actually quite decent, for a burger in Pyongyang. The only drawback was the horrible scent; it smelled like a dirty gym sock that had been left in a locker for four years.

Sadly, many of the far unluckier, hungrier residents living outside the capital probably wouldn’t mind.

[via RFA; image via lindsayfincher]



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  • Amirul Ruslan

    Yes, but does it come with fries?