North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered Pyongyang’s Okryu-gwan restaurant to serve breakfast to soldiers on the morning of Kim Jong Il’s birthday (Feb. 16), Daily NK has learned. 

Speculation had abounded in the military that the holiday banquet traditionally held for soldiers on Feb. 16 would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Daily NK sources reported on Feb. 12 that Kim ordered the restaurant to provide breakfast for soldiers as part of efforts to show the world that North Korea “stands strong” in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Despite being famous for its Pyongyang cold noodles, Okryu-gwan’s best dishes are actually sturgeon and soft-shelled turtle. Okryu-gwan often features in North Korea propaganda as an example of Kim’s love for the people. North Koreans involved in special events, conferences or state-sponsored visits to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun are frequently treated to meals there. 

Kim Jong Un reportedly issued orders for Okryu-gwan to serve North Korea’s “best dishes” – including meat soup, sturgeon, and soft-shelled turtle – to soldiers in celebration of Kim Jong Il’s birthday. 

Each political department was ordered to select military officers and soldiers to join the feast at the restaurant. Daily NK sources said that most of the soldiers attending the meal will come from military bases around Pyongyang, including from units guarding the headquarters of the military’s general staff. 

The military has extolled Kim’s orders as coming from the “great love of the Supreme Leader” toward the military. Those selected to attend the feast have high expectations for the Okryu-gwan meal, Daily NK sources said.

There have not yet been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the North Korean military, but some soldiers have reportedly expressed concern about the mass gathering of soldiers at the restaurant given the outbreak. 

Okryu-gwan’s management, however, has welcomed Kim’s order because of the business it will bring to the restaurant.

“Both Okryu-gwan buildings have been quiet since the end of January because of the outbreak of the disease,” one source told Daily NK. “The military is paying for the meals, which means the restaurant will be able to make some money.”

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