According to a report carried by Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) on the 17th, Kim Jong Il has handed down a decree ordering a newly expanded luxury Pyongyang restaurant to serve a number of expensive foods.
“In addition to Chosun national dishes, you should serve many different dishes including turtle, salmon, sturgeon, quail and bullfrog,” Kim apparently told a recent onsite inspection at Okryukwan, a well-known cold noodle restaurant in Changjeon-dong.
Okryukwan has been expanded over the course of the last six months by the military to cover 12,800m²; it can now accommodate thousands of diners.
While it is possibly the most famous cold noodle restaurant in Pyongyang, cold noodles are not all that is on offer; gray mullet soup, raw trout and steamed turtle have also been on the menu since Kim Jong Il ordered the setting of tanks for sturgeon and serving of diverse, special dishes and in September of last year. Since then, the restaurant has been serving around 40 different dishes.
Now, after looking over the facilities in the expanded restaurant, Kim has apparently ordered that luxurious dishes, said to be among his own favorites but which the average North Korean has never heard of, be sold there as well.
However, the majority of normal people cannot afford to have three meals a day, let alone eat rare delicacies. For them, Okryukwang is far from the reality of their lives. Generally, foreign visitors and provincial cadres on business in Pyongyang or attending political events are the diners at such places.
For provincial residents, meanwhile, visiting Pyongyang is difficult enough, but even those able to visit have trouble obtaining a “supply ticket” to get cold noodles.
The Finance and Accounting Department of the Central Committee of the Party is the organ that deals with the supply of tickets allowing people to get food at the restaurants. The tickets are distributed through people’s units, state organs, work places, enterprises and universities, often to model persons as rewards for good service.
When picked as a model worker, for example, the individual receives a certificate first. This can then be exchanged for a “supply ticket” in the appropriate restaurant.
There are only a limited number of high level restaurants in Pyongyang: eleven such locations can be found along “Food Street”, which runs between the Koryo Hotel and Changkwang Street, while Okryukwan and a similar type of restaurant, Pyongcheongak, can be found elsewhere in the city.
However, when the average Pyongyang citizen receives such a food certificate, they prefer to sell it on to others because the price is three times of a normal bowl of cold noodles. There are not many ordinary people who can afford to turn down that kind of money.
With such a huge distance between these famous restaurants and the dining table of the ordinary North Korean people, the special dishes that Kim Jong Il has decreed be sold are like pie in the sky