In yet another demonstration of his love for the people of North Korea, “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il has decided to expand the list of foods they will never get a chance to enjoy.

No longer must the average worker restrict his hungry fantasizing to such staples as rice, beef, kimchi, and tofu. Now he can take pride in knowing that while he and his family waste away with malnutrition, the country’s elite are enjoying such exotic foreign items as pizza and hamburgers.


The pizza story goes back to the late 1990s, when the Dear Leader—a well-fed devotee of Western food and drink—brought over some Italian pizzamakers to teach the North Koreans how it’s done. But apparently the lessons didn’t take, so last year a North Korean delegation was dispatched to Naples to perfect their technique. The result was the opening of Pyongyang’s first pizza and pasta restaurant.

It sounds like a slippery slope for a country so stubbornly attached to its isolation and independence. But it gets worse, far worse: The latest bright star on Pyongyang’s restaurant scene specializes in…hamburgers! Granted, they come with a generous side of kimchi, but they’re hamburgers nonetheless.


After years of sacrificing everything to keeping North Korea free of “imperialist influences,” the impenetrable fortress seems to have sprung a leak. Now, thanks to the help of a Singaporean company, any North Korean willing to spend half a day’s wages can sample what the menu calls “minced beef with bread.” The truly adventurous can follow that up with a waffle. And the management promises the addition, soon, of hot dogs and croissants.

It seemed like big news when word leaked out that North Korea was producing its own Taedong River Beer. But throw in hamburgers and pizza as well, and you can’t help thinking we’re witnessing the disintegration of the workers’ paradise as we knew it. What’s next for Pyongyang, the Superbowl?

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DanBing has lived in one Asian country and traveled in various others, engaging in activities that ranged from teaching English to playing Irish music to researching articles to marrying. The best part was usually the food, though the marriage hasn’t been too bad either. But of all his many accomplishments he is perhaps proudest of his close–extremely close–association with the person who wrote The Devil’s Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies (