Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Some new retail developments in Pyongyang

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Instagram is no longer an option for regular tourists to the DPRK, but expats and regular visitors are still allowed access to the service. So Koryo Tours has used mobile access to photograph some recent changes in Pyongyang. I thought I would post a couple of their interesting images below and match them with satellite imagery to give a little more perspective.

Taedonggang Bar No. 3 (대동강제3술집):


Renovation on this bar began sometime after Feb 2012. The interior (pics by Koryo Tours) looks like any of the bars in Dupont Circle:

Taedonggang-bar-3-1 Taedonggang-bar-3-2

According to Koryo Tours, beer costs 1.5 Euros (per pint/half litre). There are seven taps along the bar. I assume they serve various brands of Taedonggang Beer.

Koryo Tours also posted this image of a new shopping center under construction in downtown Pyongyang:


Plastered to the wall is a map of what the site will look like when construction is completed, however, it is too small to make out with any specificity with this image.  Currently we do not know any details about this facility (or even its proper name), but hopefully it will appear in the official North Korean media before too long. Here is the location of the new facility:


The construction site sits on the former star-shaped fountain of the Mansudae Fountain Park….between the Mansudae Assembly Hall (Supreme People’s Assembly), Pyongyang Student’s and Children’s Palace, Mansudae Art Theater, and new Mansudae Street housing.


Hoeryong: New Chinese tourist destination

Monday, October 15th, 2012


Pictured Above (Google Earth): Two Google Earth satellite images of Hoeryong (L: 2002-4-27, R: 2008-12-25) which show the construction of residential apartments buildings as well as the town’s new main market.

Hoeryong is a town in North Hamgyong Province that lies across the Tumen (Tuman) River from China.  According to North Korean political narratives it is also the childhood home of Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk.  It has been the the site of a large construction boom in the last five years, and now, according to the Daily NK, Chinese tourists are being brought in on very limited itineraries. According to the article:

The Hoiryeong source explained, “North Hamkyung Province ‘shock troops’ and military unit construction teams have been here for three years on Kim Jong Il’s orders for the construction, and now it is finished.” Local households were asked to contribute 12,000 North Korean Won each to the construction effort, he added.

Hoiryeong used to have few buildings with five floors, but now it has a considerable number of new four and five floor apartment buildings built around the center of the city, as well as a number of newly built commercial facilities. Buildings in the downtown core have also been spruced up with external lighting, a project that began last April.

There are a number of new restaurants in the area. One, ‘Hoiryeonggwan’, has been decorated in the style of Pyongyang’s famous ‘Okryugwan’, something that Kim Jong Il is said to have ordered in December 2010 when he visited the construction site. Elsewhere, restaurants serving spicy marinated beef, duck, dog and Chinese food have also opened their doors.

However, these restaurants only currently open on the weekend or when Chinese tour groups make an advanced reservation, according to the source, who revealed that local people regard the construction effort more as an attempt to generate tourist revenue than to make it a real ‘model city’, as the official propaganda claims.

“Chinese tourists come, then they visit the statue of Kim Jong Suk and the place where she grew up, and then they are taken to one or other of the restaurants,” the source said. “They drink and make merry then go, all without visiting any scenic spots; thus, the authorities make money.”

As with other tourist operations, it is possible that this small step will lead to a softening of restrictive tourism regulations and potentially the arrival of Western tourists.  But don’t hold your breath!  Chinese tourists have been visiting Sinuiju on a regular basis, but westerners are generally still prohibited from touring the city

Additional Information: 

1. On the opening of Hoeryong’s “Food Avenue”

2. Succession not popular in Hoeryong

Read the full story here:
Model City or Tourist Trap: Hoiryeong Sparkles
Daily NK
Choi Song Min


Phyongsong restaurant street opens

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


Phyongsong  restaurant street: (L) via Google Earth (R) via Rodong Sinmun

According to KCNA:

New Street of Restaurants Built in S. Phyongan Province

Pyongyang, April 24 (KCNA) — A street of restaurants was newly built in the Jungdok area in Phyongsong City, South Phyongan Province of the DPRK.

There include houses serving casserole, noodle, tangogi soup and entrails soup. A meat shop was also built there, making it possible to improve the people’s diet.

The street is decorated with peculiar display of colorful light.

The restaurant street was featured on the evening news on April 16.

There are at least two other “Restaurant Streets” in the DPRK: Changwang Street in Pyongyang and Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province.


Korea Pyongyang Haedanghwa Foodstuff Company

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012


Pictured above: (L) The location of the new Haedonghwa Center under construction in Pyongyang (Google Earth), and (R) a representation of the building’s exterior

The Korea Pyongyang Haedanghwa Foodstuff Company (조선평양해당화식품회사는)  has launched a new web page  on the Naenara portal providing content in English, Korean, and Chinese.

This new web site hosts pages of information not just on the company, its subsidiaries, its employees, and its products, but also on Korean food, culture and health. Among the more interesting claims made on the page:

Our service workers come from normal families, and they are not ones grown in the special environment or conditions.

The web page also provides addresses and maps of the subsidiary restaurants and factories in China and the DPRK.

Using information from the web page I was able to locate the position of the Haedanghwa Center (pictured at the top of this post).  It is obviously still under construction.  The lot on which the center is being built has been empty for the last dozen years and lies directly across the Taedong River from the new construction on Mansudae Street.


New DPRK restaurant opens in Dandong

Friday, February 17th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The largest of a collection of overseas restaurants run by the North Korean authorities,‘Pyongyang Koryogwan’ opened for business in Dandong, China on Thursday. An opening ceremony was held in front of the restaurant, which is located at the entrance to Dandong’s development zone.

The ribbon-cutting, which lasted for 30 minutes beginning at 9:30AM, included North Korean and local Chinese government officials, the restaurant management team and more than 50 female staff members, over 100 people in total. Staff must have been freezing after spending the whole time in Korean traditional dress despite sub-zero temperatures.

The restaurant is staffed by more than 200 workers from North Korea, 120 of whom are general staff, with the remainder working in the kitchens or on administrative tasks. The menu is mostly a collection of different sets, with the cheapest item being cold noodles at around USD$4.75.

Read the full story here:
Dandong Opening for New NK Restaurant
Daily NK
Choi Cheong Ho


Viennese Coffee now available in Pyongyang

Monday, February 13th, 2012

UPDATE 1 (2012-2-13): Thanks Dr. Seliger we now have some photos of the interior of the newly opened Viennese Coffee Restaurant:

And if you don’t feel like coffee, they have more “traditional” drinks on offer:

The sign on the front door reads “Helmut Sachers Kaffee,” but the menu shows another name: Ryongwang Coffee Shop (련광). Perhaps this is the name of the Korean Join-Venture company, but I cannot find any additional information on it.

A reader notes the following:

Helmut Sacher is an Austrian coffee roaster (web page here). It is probably that Ryon’gwang buys beans from Sacher, and/or Sacher owns part of the joint company.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-12-4):

Pictured above (Google Maps): Korean Central History Museum on Kim Il-sung Square–site of the new coffee house.

According to a German reader:

A report published [2011-11-24] in the German Daily “Frankfurter Rundschau” reports on the opening of a “Viennese Coffe House” right on Kim Il Sung Square inside the Museum of Korean History (the one wih the “trumpet soldier”).

In brief: Austrian enterpreneur Helmut Sachers has opened this new Vienna style cofee house in October after training Korean service- and bakery staff. It says that it mainly serves the foreign community in Pyongyang, but alo an increasing number of Koreans appear to be able to pay EUR 2, the equivalent of 5000 Won, for a cup of cappucino.

Then reference is made to two older pizza-places and a a Swiss coffe house …. and various duty free shops serving the international community and wealthy North Koreans… which is contrasted with the children and young soldiers exercising on Kim Il Sung Square, who show indications of malnurishment.

You can read a PDF of the German article here. If a reader has the ability and inclination to provide an English-language copy of this article, I would appreciate it.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mr. Knoll I have a full English translation of the article:

Whipped Cream in Pyongyang

The heart of the North Korean capital Pyongyang now boasts a Viennese coffee house – a sign that the isolation of the country is showing cracks.

By Bernhard Bartsch

A cappuccino is not political, in most places in the world. But the milk foam coffee now being served on Pyongyang´s Kim Il Sung Square has an unmistakably political flavor – and some customers think that´s why it tastes so good. Right next to the parade ground in the heart of the North Korean capital, a Viennese café has opened its doors in late October – a sign the isolation of the arch-communist regime is slowly showing cracks.

The Austrian operator could hardly have asked for a more iconic building: the Museum of Korean History, a Stalinist representative structure, on its roof, a 10 m (30 ft) tall soldier is sounding the charge. Inside, you get a crash course in the history of the Korean revolution, and you´ll be served “Viennese coffee with whipped cream”, but only after passing through a door inconspicuously marked “café” in Korean. Only then the yellow coffeepot-shaped emblem marked “Helmut Sachers Kaffee” becomes visible.

“We have thirty to fourty customers per day” the young waitress says. “Most of them are diplomats or other foreigners living here”. She wears a black pantsuit, and like most North Koreans, she is rather tight-lipped when talking to foreigners. A couple sitting at one of the eleven tables is examining the room, a peculiar mix of Austrian gemuetlichkeit and North Korean drabness. Two fans with gaudily-colored lamps are hanging from the ceiling, there´s wood paneling to half height, pink blinds cover the windows. A large flat screen TV is showing Austrian scenery, waltz is being played as background music.

Payment in hard currency

Expensive coffeemakers can be seen behind the bar, a vitrine shows a variety of cakes: apple tart, cherry streusel, poppyseed-walnut-vanilla. They won´t win any prizes in Vienna, they might in Pyongyang, though. The coffee, the dishes, even the sugar packs are imported from Austria. A cappuccino is two euros, you pay in hard currency. The Koreans prefer euros, Chinese yuan, even US dollars, over their own currency. Two euros are worth about 5,000 Korean won on the black market. That´s about a month´s salary for the average North Korean, not counting food and clothing rations.

The man the café is named after is living in Oeynhausen, near Vienna. “We seem to have a monopoly on exotic export markets” explains Helmut Sachers, owner of a long-standing family-owned coffee-roasting establishment, now doing business in 25 countries. “There´s a Café Sachers in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, too”. The cafés, however, are not operated by Sachers himself, but by importers. The one in Pyongyang was the brainchild of Vienna entrepreneur Helmut Brammen. “In 2009 he told me he´s doing business in very unusual destinations”, Sachers says. The negotiations went on for two years, before Sachers and Brammen flew to Pyongyang in March, accompanied by an Austrian baker to train staff. They met very eager men and women, Sachers says. The North Koreans soaked up Austrian coffee culture like a sponge.
The fact that a Viennese coffee house can open its doors in Pyongyang shows that behind the rigid façade things are in a state of flux, a European diplomat says. “Ordinary North Koreans won´t come here, of course, but the elites know what life is like outside the country, and they want a part of it to enjoy at home.

Communist Pizza

The Viennese café is not the first international establishment in the city. A member of the Italian Communist Party opened a pizzeria in 2009, the second in Pyongyang, but the first that is partly owned by foreigners. Adra, an aid organization run by Swiss Adventists, opened a Swiss café a few years ago, serving cheese fondue to North Koreans. There are also several stores selling exclusive imported goods. At the “Pyongyang Shop”, where the clientele consists of embassy staff and members of international aid groups, Italian pasta, German jam, Swiss chocolate, and a large selection of wine and whisky are available.
“Those with money can buy almost anything they want in North Korea” the diplomat says. “It is remarkable that more and more customers are North Koreans.” Despite the egalitarian rhetoric in the Communist country, the real-life wealth disparities are much more blatant than in capitalist countries.

The scene outside the Viennese café on Kim Il Sung Square is no exception. Schoolchildren are rehearsing in the cold for the celebrations planned for April 2012, the 100th birthday of the country´s founder. A gigantic mass gymnastics show involving hundreds of thousands of participants is supposed to strengthen unity among the Korean people. By command, children turn cartwheels and do flic-flacs, a student band plays military marches. On the other side of the street, an army unit doing construction work has pitched its tents. Clothing has been left to dry on bushes, there are lines of cabbage leaves to be pickled by the unit´s chef, to make kimchi, the national dish.

Almost all of the young soldiers are stunted – a result of the famine in the 1990s that killed millions of North Koreans and left many survivors with permanent health problems. “The food situation is still very bad, but a catastrophe as in those days seems unimaginable today”, says a Western aid worker, who is almost a regular at Helmut Sachers`s. “The country is opening up, and this is irreversible.


Pyongyang Restaurant in Vientiane

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Since the New York Times just published an interesting account of the Pyongyang Restaurant in Siem Reap, I thought I would write a quick post about my recent trip to the North Korean Restaurant in Vientiane, Laos (평양식당)–my first North Korean restaurant experience outside of the DPRK.

The restaurant is located just a couple of blocks from one of Vientiane’s most popular landmarks, Wat Pha That Luang:


I arrived at the restaurant on December 28, 2011, the date of Kim Jong-il’s funeral.  I was eager to see if the restaurant would be doing anything special to mark the occasion…and they did: they were closed for the week.  A sign on the door read in English and Lao something close to “Apologies, but we are closed for five days”.


As I stood at the front door reading the “closed” sign, one of the waitresses walked out and offered to serve me a drink in the adjacent outdoor seating area (where the grills are located). I accepted.

In what I believe was perfect Korean (sarcasm here), I asked if they served Taedonggang Beer.  But they only served “Beer Lao” (Which is just about the only beer you can get in the country—fortunately it is a tasty one). As I enjoyed my drink, I asked the waitress if the restaurant was closed because of the General’s death, and she made a sad face and nodded her head. So I finished my drink, paid, and continued on with my vacation.

On January 9, 2012, I returned to the restaurant for a proper meal. When I walked into the restaurant I felt like I was back in the DPRK. The decorations and smell came rushing back to memory.




There were no overt signs of propaganda in the restaurant—likely because the bulk of the customers are South Koreans.  The only subtle symbol that could be construed as propaganda would be the pictures of Mt. Paektu.  These, however, would likely be interpreted as just a symbol of Korea to the South Korean patrons. Mt. Paekdu was featured outside on a big sign posted to the front of the building and inside on a smaller painting…right next to the restaurant’s Christmas tree. The wall decoration and paintings primarily featured pictures of Korean landscapes, crashing waves, women in hanboks and of course Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and Mona Lisa.

Surprisingly the menu featured several Tangogi (“Sweet” Dog meat) dishes. It was surprising to me because the Laotians  do not eat dog. But they probably do not eat here much either if only because of the prices. I ordered a Tofu and kimchi dish as a starter and topped it off with some Pyongyang cold noodles and Ryongthongsul (령통술) Soju (from Kaesong).


Of course there was dancing and karaoke as well:


The waitress/performers opened with Arirang, but then sang a couple of songs that the Chinese and South Koreans seemed to know.  I was also able to recognize “Pangap Sunmida” and “Whiperan”.  I requested a song but they just laughed and said no. I guess my tastes are out of date–even in North Korea.

Eventually I was invited to sing a karaoke song as well.  In tribute to Shane Smith, I thought about singing the Sex Piltols’ “Anarchy in the UK”, but I was just too tired and not interested in making a scene.

Before I left, I asked the waitresses where they went to university. They attended the Pyongyang University of Music and Dance (평양음악무용대학)–which was rencetly refurbished:

1. I have marked many of the DPRK’s restaurants on Google Earth, but not all of them. If you visit one, or know where one is, please let me know.

2. I have posted many articles on the DPRK’s domestic, joint venture,  and international restaurants.  You can read them here.


Phoenix Commercial Ventures update

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): The recently completed Hana Electronics and restaurant building in Rakrang-guyok (락랑구역).  See in Google Maps here.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures has recently launched a new web page and issued the following press release on their latest projects in the DPRK:

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.

A video and photos of the restaurant can be viewed on the Phoenix website.

About Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd
Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd offers investors business and investment opportunities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), enabling them to take advantage of the economic reforms that are taking place there.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd maintains an office in Pyongyang, almost the only European company to do so, and operates with the following specific aims:

• Identify commercially viable investment projects in the DPRK, on a case by case basis

• Identify reliable local partners for all forms of business in the DPRK, either trade or investment

• Seek overseas investment sources for such projects

• Minimise the risk in such projects, by taking responsibility for supervision of the local set-up procedures and management of the projects

About Hana
Hana was established in May 2003. In 2004 it began manufacturing and selling DVD and VCD players, as well as pressing and selling CD’s.

When the company first began operations it employed barely a handful of people. Now it employs over 200 people, and has thus become a major employer with significant social responsibilities which it takes very seriously.

Hana have established a nationwide distribution network throughout the major cities in the DPRK. Whilst they manufactured and marketed CD’s, they had an exclusive long term contract with the Mansudae Arts Centre, which belongs to the Ministry of Culture, one of the partners in the JV, for 300 works including; movies, karaoke and other music.

They now produce and sell a range of DVD players, and will move into other consumer electronics products.

Hana is now ranked as one of the top three best performing joint ventures in DPRK, as assessed by the Ministry of Finance.

Hana is proud to have introduced a number of firsts, which show the evolution of the DPRK to a market economy. These include:

• Advertising – the Hana logo, together with the company’s telephone number, appear on every product and packing case

• Offering a guarantee – Hana has also introduced a six-month, no questions asked, guarantee on all products

• Distribution System – Hana have gradually established, from a zero base, a distribution system covering the whole country. They have set up sales offices – for example, in Chongjin, they now have one main office and 13 sub-branches; in Hamhung, they have one main office and 3 sub-offices, and also have offices in Nampo, Sariwon and Sinuiju. They plan to open more outlets, first in the other provincial cities, then in the smaller county seats

• Hana intends to diversify and expand their range of products.

• Hana moved into its newly constructed building, next to the T’ongil Market, in Q1 2011.

• Hana has also opened a restaurant (“The Restaurant at Hana”) and leisure facilities (including a swimming pool) in its new building. The restaurant and leisure facilities are open to locals and foreigners alike.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Limited
No. 901
International House of Culture
Central District
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Corporate Website


Plastic surgery required to work in prestigious DPRK restaurants

Friday, May 20th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

It has been belatedly revealed that since the start of the 2000s, young women working in North Korean restaurants both in Pyongyang and abroad have been required to have double eyelid surgery.

A source with a long history of visits to Pyongyang explained to The Daily NK yesterday, “When I was in Pyongyang last year, I heard from someone related to the North that since the start of the 2000s all waitresses had double eyelid surgery on Kim Jong Il’s instructions,” and added, “It seems that Kim Jong Il places great importance on the appearance of workers in restaurants earning foreign currency.”

According to the source, the target of Kim Jong Il’s requirements includes workers at restaurants within Pyongyang fraternized by foreigners, including Korean and international restaurants in the Yanggakdo and Koryo Hotels, coffee shops and other shops.

But it also includes those sent to work in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Yanji), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), the Middle East (Dubai), Nepal, the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Kaesong.

The reason why Kim Jong Il made the decision is supposedly connected with restaurant sales; the waitresses at such establishments are not merely waitresses, for they must also be talented singers and dancers, too.

According to the source, “They are mostly young university students born in Pyongyang, and I heard they get the surgery in hospital in Pyongyang for $17.”

North Korea pushed into the foreign restaurant market at first in the 1990s in an attempt to boost hard currency earnings. Now, with foreign currency earning businesses under both Party and military organs operating in the market, there are more than 100 North Korean restaurants worldwide.

According to the scale of the restaurant and number of waitresses, each is expected to earn a certain amount of foreign currency per year, and while getting a job in one of the restaurants naturally relies heavily on family and educational background, the waitresses are still watched more carefully by the authorities than ordinary North Korean citizens.

A former resident of Pyongyang told me that elite North Korean women were all getting this procedure done back in the 1980s.  It was very cheap and common.

Read the full story here:
Eyelid Surgery a Restaurant Must
Daily NK:
Kim Yong Hun


ROK government encouraging DPRK restaurant boycott

Monday, January 10th, 2011

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Siem Reap, Cambodia’s second largest city near the sprawling ruins of the Angkor Wat, has two North Korean restaurants, down from three since North Korea recalled all their expat staff after Kim Jong-il’s stroke in 2008 and returned only the employees of two of them. The restaurants rely on South Korean tourists for business since the town is a popular destination for them.

One of them, called Restaurant Pyongyang, sells the famous cold noodles or naengmyeon for US$7 a dish, while North Korean dancers perform and pour drinks for customers. It used to be a regular stopover for South Korean tourists, with tour agencies charging $30 for a visit and a meal. One tour guide said, “In Cambodia $7 a dish is already pretty expensive, but many tourists go to the restaurant because of its attractions.”

After North Korea’s sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in March last year, the South Korean Embassy in Cambodia asked tour agencies and South Korean residents’ association there to avoid sending visitors from the South there, but local sources say the plea fell largely on deaf ears. But the North’s artillery attack on Yeonpyong Island in November last year finally did the trick. The South Korean residents’ association in Siem Reap voluntarily boycotted the North Korean restaurants, and tour agencies also voluntarily took them off their itinerary.

The restaurants are apparently suffering. A member of the South Korean residents’ association said, “Almost all of the customers were South Korean tourists, but it seems that even the performances have stopped now there are no customers.”

Around 120,000 South Koreans a year reportedly visited the two restaurants, contributing to an estimated W200-300 million (US$1=W1,126) in monthly sales. North Korea runs over 100 restaurants in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Russia, which serve as a source of much-needed hard currency for the regime by sending home $100,000-300,000 a year.

The mood in Siem Reap is now desperate. Last month, a placard outside a South Korean restaurant criticizing North Korea’s attacks were torn down by seven people who appeared to be North Korean agents, in what expats there believe was another small-scale North Korean provocation. Tour agencies are also losing revenues after taking the restaurants off their itineraries. “We used to charge $30 per visit and took 30 percent of the profits, but not any more,” a tour guide said.

South Korean residents’ associations abroad rarely voluntarily boycott North Korean restaurants. The Okryugwan chain of North Korean restaurants in Beijing’s Wangjing district is still accessible to South Koreans. A South Korean Embassy official there said, “We asked residents to avoid the restaurant in November but did not force them.”

Meanwhile, a North Korean restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal closed down in November after its North Korean manager defected to South Korea.

Read the full story below:
N.Korean Restaurants Abroad Feel the Pinch
Choson Ilbo