While rice prices are on the rise, and have passed the 5000Won mark,this doesn’t seem to hurt the more affluent citizens within North Korea, who are more able to indulge themselves with nice toys, and do things like visit foreign-themed restaurants, and sip coffee from Austrian and Italian shops.
North Korea has been allowing more and more coffee shops and foreign food restaurants to open in Pyongyang for some time now, a trend that doesn’t seem to be letting up despite the state’s crackdowns on all other forms of overseas influence.
The stores actually began to appear following an economic development measure in 2002, but the real impetus for their growth was the loosening of the government’s stance on joint ventures with foreign companies in 2005… A source in Seoul explained to Daily NK on Tuesday that these Western-style restaurants serving pizza, pasta and wine continue to grow in number.
Foreign and local customers alike are required to pay in Euros. At the Vienna Café, a cup of coffee costs EUR2 (US$2.64), and food anywhere from EUR2 to 8.
The source explained that obviously this is having an effect, saying, “Party officials are able to frequent these places, but actually the majority of customers are foreigners. Even ordinary citizens are allowed in, but naturally the high prices as well as the presence of NSA agents around means people have to be careful about how they approach these places.”
It is also known that Pyongyang department stores are now selling products from luxury brands such as Chanel and Armani. The country’s biggest state-operated department store located in Pyongyang reportedly stocks LCD TVs, computers, USB drives, as well as other items such as furniture and sweets, while a new department store which opened in February last year sells foreign luxury brands such as Chanel and Armani.
… According to people who have visited North Korea, department stores are also selling other basic items aimed at the upper class, such as German chocolate, mustard sauce and baby diapers.”
North Korea makes no secret of its desire to obtain extra foreign currency… one of the eye-catching plans available on the Koryolink cell phone system is a discounted plan denominated in Euro.
Believe it or not, in Asia, when stores like McDonald’s and other such American fast food chains opened up, being able to afford a Big Mac was a status symbol. Sooner or later, these foreign restaurants will see more and more North Koreans customers as the years come.
What’s unique in this situation is the way they are accepting foreign currency as a way to boost up their foreign currency reserves –taking in the Euro too. What’s wrong with the almighty dollar?