Happy days are here again in North Korea's bleak capital, so call your travel agent and book a flight to Pyongyang, if you can get there from here.
"Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il, a gourmand, has opened an Italian restaurant after sending cooks to Naples and Rome to learn how to cook authentic Italian pizza and pasta. "Our people should be allowed to enjoy the world-famous food," Kim told the manager of the eatery in an article in Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based pro-North Korean newspaper, reported the Associated Press.
The restaurant opened in December (Who knew until now? News travels slowly from that isolated country), and it gets its wheat flour, butter and cheese from Italy via the North Korean government.
The Hermit Kingdom, with a per capita income of $1,150, is one of the world's poorest countries, has chronic food shortages, and relies on food aid from foreign countries to feed its population. Sadly, it has just kicked out five groups distributing American food aid and announced it will reject future U.S. food assistance. In the 1990s as many as 2 million North Koreans starved to death, and there are high levels of malnutrition, while Kim has enjoyed the cognac, French wine, caviar, shark fin soup and other delicacies he is reported to ingest. The United Nations World Food Program has said that of the nation's 23 million people, about 9 million - mostly children, pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly - will urgently need food aid in the impending "lean season" as food stocks from last year's harvest run low.
It's unclear how many locals can afford to eat at the restaurant, but the restaurant has been crowded, Choson Sinbo relayed. Undoubtedly this is the new gathering place for the high-level government officials who are the country's elite and who also enjoy luxuries. It's nice to know that at least a few in North Korea are getting a taste of western cuisine. Can KFC be far behind, or is the colonel too intimidating to Dear Leader?