Friday 09 December 2022

NORTH KOREA – Coffee Shops Add to Pyongyang’s Dolce Vita

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PYONGYANG – High-end coffee shops are the latest fad among the mysteriously wealthy elite of Pyongyang, who sip their espresso or latte at prices equivalent to a worker’s monthly wage in North Korea.

According to Andray Abrahamian of Chosun Exchange, which provides vocational training for North Korean students, an increasing number of Pyongyang citizens are willing to pay US$3.50 for a cup of coffee.

Abrahamian tried a few cups at the coffee shop in the Pyongyang Hotel, where customers can look down on the Daedong River. It had a roaster, fresh beans and other equipment associated with the coffee shops in a capitalist metropolis.


The drip coffee tasted a little strange, with roughly ground coffee beans past their shelf life, but the espresso and cappuccino were good, Abrahamian wrote on the website of TV channel France 24.

The menu featured many of the trappings found in the nowhere-land of international coffee “culture,” including waffles and caramel macchiato, as well as a cocktail named “Coconut Kiss.” A bottle of Coca-Cola imported from China was $5.

A report released in late 2012 by the UN representative to North Korea claimed 16 million out of 25 million North Koreans suffer from severe food insecurity, chronic malnutrition and do not have access to essential medicines.

The report condemned the regime for ranking the population according to regime loyalty, and thereby creating unequal access to food, housing, health, employment and education.

The elite tend to live in Pyongyang and a permit is required for anyone hoping to make a home in the city’s Soviet-style high-rises. Only those who have proved their loyalty to the regime will be issued with the highly-prized permit.

Dirt-poor North Koreans in the countryside rely on international food aid to survive, while the capital’s residents have increasing access to consumer goods imported from overseas.

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