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Amidst Worst Food Crisis in its History, North Korea Opens Luxury Restaurant in Pyongyang

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Last month, footage shot by an undercover North Korean journalist was obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, revealing the extent of the food crisis in the world's last Coke-free, McDonald's-less, untouched-by-Starbucks -- and, coincidentally, brutal, repressive, and Stalinist -- society.

The ABC, which no longer has the rights to the footage (but still has a partial transcript and audio available on its website) shows "young children caked in filth begging in markets, [and] pleading for scraps from compatriots who have nothing to give."

"I am eight," says one boy. "My father died and my mother left me. I sleep outdoors."

Many of the children are orphans; their parents victims of starvation or the gulag.

But markets do exist - private markets that stock bags of rice, pork, and corn. The state no longer has any rations to hand out.

But the state wants its share of this embryonic capitalism.

In the footage, a party official is demanding a stallholder make a donation of rice to the army.

"My business is not good," complains the stallholder.

"Shut up," replies the official. "Don't offer excuses."

Hey, here's an idea -- let's open a luxury restaurant!



If it weren't so awful, it might be ironic:


Hana Electronics Opens “The Restaurant at Hana”

Pyongyang/London, July 8th 2011

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd ( is proud to announce that Hana Electronics JVC (a 50/50 joint venture based in the DPRK) completed and moved into its new headquarters based near the T’ongil Market in Pyongyang in Q1 2011.

Having moved in and set up its production facilities, Hana has now opened a restaurant (“The Restaurant at Hana”) and related leisure facilities (swimming pool, sauna, hairdresser, bar, gym etc) in its headquarters.

The restaurant (which comprises a main dining room and several private ones) and leisure facilities are open to locals and foreigners alike. Food for the restaurant is sourced from local markets.

With a per capita income behind Senegal, Gambia, and Cambodia, exactly which "locals" have the money to dine out is unclear. And "locally-sourced ingredients" in a place where people are literally eating grass to survive, well...sometimes, y'know, life throws you a curveball, right?

Phoenix, which "offers investors business and investment opportunities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK -- aka North Korea), enabling them to take advantage of the economic reforms that are taking place there" and is "owned and run by three experienced professionals, who are based in London, Paris and Asia," has posted a video of the new spot to see and be seen in Pyongyang (reported on first by the always-excellent North Korean Economy Watch and picked up by the Yonhap News Agency yesterday):

A photo gallery also reveals a few highlights aside from the restaurant, like the laundry room:

The bathrooms:

The gym:

And the pool (with a woman who appears to be a regular Jane-of-all-trades):

Ah, Pyongyang -- it's a wonderful town!
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.