North Korean authorities have recently begun encouraging cell phone users to pay money to install a new cooking app on their phones, but many people who have used the app are disappointed with it.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Thursday that post offices and service centers are offering to install the app on mobile phones “in response to the government’s order [for people] to actively use the cooking program [app].” The source noted, however, that people who have installed the app are “less than satisfied.” 

Since early June, post offices have been installing the cooking app on people’s phones for RMB 25 (around USD 3.88). Service centers, meanwhile, install the app for RMB 30 (approximately USD 4.65). 

“People in Samjiyon and Pochon County began installing the app as [cooking] is a necessary part of life,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “However, locals who gathered together to cook using the app have been less than happy with it.” 

Many people are reportedly expressing doubts about the app. The food they have cooked using recipes in the app turn out to be “neither North Korean, South Korean, nor Western cuisine.” The recipes are also quite complicated. App users question whether using the app is worth it given the time requirements, preparation methods, and ingredients introduced in the app.

Mobile apps developed by Chosun Expo
Mobile apps developed by Chosun Expo. / Image: Chosun Expo website screen grabs

Moreover, locals living in some parts of the Sino-North Korean border region – who are already familiar with South Korean cooking methods and actively incorporate them into their dining patterns – are giving the app a thumbs down because they find the recipes unappealing from a culinary perspective, and because the ingredients featured in the app’s recipes are “inappropriate” given the food shortages North Korea is experiencing.

While admitting that South Korean cooking methods are “fast and easy,” some locals have even said that “nothing in North Korea stacks up against South Korea,” according to the source.

The source further noted that financially disadvantaged people complain that the cooking app is “all spin and no substance” during a time when many people are leaving their homes and hometowns “to beg for food because they have nothing to eat.”

Some young people in their 20s and 30s have suggested that the government is using sales of the cooking app to collect foreign currency, while asking rhetorically: “Why make an app with such crappy recipes, which are from neither South Korea nor China?”

While the cooking app has generally received negative reviews, most people with cell phones are paying to install the app because it is the “latest trend,” according to the source. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to
Read in Korean