A market in something, every now and then

by on March 17, 2009 at 12:20 pm in Food and Drink | Permalink

North Korean edition, of course, and now it is pizza:

It has taken almost 10 years of work, but North Korea has acquired the
technology to launch a project very dear to its leader's heart – the
nation's first "authentic" Italian pizzeria…

Last year a delegation of local chefs was sent by Kim to Naples and
Rome to learn the proper Italian techniques after their homegrown
efforts to mimic Italian cuisine were found by Kim to contain "errors".

In
the late 1990s Kim brought a team of Italian pizza chefs to North Korea
to instruct his army officers how to make pizza, a luxury which is now
being offered to a tiny elite able to afford such luxuries in a country
that cannot feed many of its 24 million inhabitants.

Despite the
food shortages high-quality Italian wheat, flour, butter and cheese are
being imported to ensure the perfect pizza is created every time.

"Our
people should be also allowed to enjoy the world-famous food," the
manager of the Pyongyang eatery quoted Kim as saying, according to the
Tokyo-based Choson Sinbo newspaper.

The paper, which is often
seen as a mouthpiece for the communist regime, added the restaurant had
proved to be a major hit after it opened in the capital Pyongyang in
December.

"I've learned through TV and books that pizza and
spaghetti are among the world's famous dishes, but this is the first
time that I've tasted it," Jung Un-Suk, 42, told the newspaper, "They
have unique flavours," she said.

The news that Kim's dream of
making genuine Italian food available in the capital has been realised
comes as North Korea threatens to test-launch a rocket which the US
believes is capable of striking America.

I thank Leonard Monasterio for the pointer.

Curt March 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Wouldn’t it have been simpler to order take-out from South Korea?

dearieme March 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Great. Now will someone teach the good people of Venice to make pizza?

Billare March 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm

“It has taken almost 10 years of work, but North Korea has acquired the technology to launch a project very dear to its leader’s heart – the nation’s first “authentic” Italian pizzeria…”

Interesting…was this the slow pace of technological progress for much of human history?

d.cous. March 17, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Wow, Curt. That comment is pure gold. Thanks for that.

I’m actually in favor of this, contra Bushequalhitler’s comments (though you do have a point). Anything that points out the incredible level of inequality in N.K. to its own citizens is probably a good thing in the long run.

Soon, everyone will want pizza! Viva la revolution!

a_c March 17, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Amusingly, the North Korean leadership shares this in common with the Stuff White People Like demographic: they both place a high price on “authenticity.” Dictatorship aside, I’m sure there are many SWPLers who would cheerlead a hugely inefficient system to fly in authentic Italian chefs, materials, etc., rather than suffer the indignity of local chains that cater to a domestic audience.

Francesco March 17, 2009 at 2:03 pm

You really do NOT need butter to make a good pizza.

Farmer March 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Now if only I could get a good taco in Pyongyang….

Andrew March 17, 2009 at 5:19 pm

On the other hand, now that they have pizza, what else could they want, really?

Seriously, if the government just delivered pizza to my door every day, I’d probably stop complaining.

bushequalhitler March 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm

To d.cous:

North Koreans already know the level of inequality in their country. They don’t need the grand opening of Party Pizzeria to remind them of that. In Romania, we knew very well the level of inequality during communism. We knew that even entering Party stores, let alone buying Pepsi from them, would cause the secret police to pay the misguided prole a visit. In North Korea it is certainly even worse. You seem to be suggesting that the fall of communism was caused by the proles suddenly realizing that they do not have the same kind of refrigerators the exploited workers in the “capitalist hell” had. This is a very popular notion, but it is entirely incorrect. We the proles knew all along that the capitalist world was better, but we couldn’t do anything about it before the occupying power, Soviet Union, lost the Cold War. The only people whose eyes would be opened by more blatant inequality in the communist paradises of North Korea and Cuba are the Michael Moore and Sean Penn’s of the world, but I doubt they are paying much attention.

Inequality alone never leads to revolution. Think about it: it is true that the more unequal things are, the more the proles would like to revolt, but then again, the more the party bosses would like the things to stay how they are, and they are the ones with the power.

Which brings me to Andrew’s comment:

This is another popular misconception, based on wishful thinking about Cuba’s embargo: you made things difficult for the dictator, people are going to rally around him. No way! In Romania, people were waiting for the Americans to come and rescue them. For years they wished a war, with whatever that entails, would save them. They were willing to die, and some of them actually did eventually die, to end the regime. Not selling Pepsi to the dictator’s cronies would not have made them rally around him. However, selling Pepsi, Mercedeses, movies etc. to the dictator’s cronies makes them like the dictatorship more, cause they do not lose too much from living in a nation in which very few starve the many. Like it or not, it is the dictator’s cronies wanting goodies that are not available to them that causes revolutions. Embargoes, blockades, wars and such help; selling Pepsi and other goodies to Saddam Husseins and his sons of the world does not.

But even if you are right, I suggested boycotting the companies that deal with the North Korean regime, not North Korea. We should make these companies pay the true social cost of doing business with North Korea, which is huge: more years of starvation for the proles there, because the party leaders can now enjoy the same food as the regular folks in South Korea. We talk about “social responsibility” of a company and it usually means not to throw junk in the water, cause maybe somebody down river might get an infection from it, and we all agree that is such a great idea. How about giving, what, 10,000 in profits and not prolonging the Norht Koreans’ hell any longer? How is that for “social responsibility”?

Boycott the companies! And boycott Pepsi!

Bushequalhitler March 18, 2009 at 12:19 am

No, doctorpat, boycotts do affect dictators and generals, negatively. Boycotts do affect the Colonels, Majors and Policemen, also negatively. This is almost self evident, actually. If Castro were helped by US embargo, i.e. by Cuba not trading with the US, anything US does, Castro would still find a way for Cuba not to trade with US. It is not like he has to put it to a vote or anything.

It is also true that boycotts also hurt the proles. But most of the time their life is so miserable that there isn’t anything you could do to make it significantly worse. But you could hurt the dictator, and the generals, and the colonels down to the last pen pusher who convicts people to hard labor for saying a joke about Castro. Let’s do that by boycotting any company that does business with them. Boycott Pepsi!

OK, I will change my name. Who equals Hitler this year?

Curtis Melvin March 18, 2009 at 8:43 am

Pizza has been available in Pyongynag since at least 2005. Although the qulaity is not great, it has improved in recent years, acording to the employees, because of the presence of US NGO workers.

ZBicyclist March 18, 2009 at 9:11 am

They are seeking outdated technology.

Two words: Chicago Style.
Two more words: Uno’s franchise.

happyjuggler0 March 18, 2009 at 11:37 am

SJ said, but weren’t North and South Korea on the verge of re-integrating, a la East and West Germany, until Bush intervened and f**ked it up?

The short answer is that we have no way whatsoever to really know. North Korea will do whatever its Great Leader wants it to do, and he doesn’t seem all that eager to play well with others.

What he does seem eager to do is to fool the US and others into thinking he will give them what he wants, just so long as the US and others gives him all kinds of aid. But he never delivers, and it is unclear if he ever had any intention of doing so.

In other words, North Korea was never anyone’s “to lose”, since it was never anyone’s to win.

doctorpat March 19, 2009 at 12:43 am

In 2009, Wallstreetequalshitler.

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