Singaporean firm to increase number of fast-food joints in Pyongyang

January 13, 2014

By ETSUSHI TSURU/ Correspondent

SINGAPORE--At a Samtaesong fast-food restaurant in Pyongyang, customers must order the "minced meat with bun" if they want a hamburger, since English words of American origin are banned in North Korea.

Still, a burger by any other name is a hit with locals, as the Singaporean operator of Samtaesong fast-food branches is planning to double the number of outlets in Pyongyang this year.

The first Samtaesong eatery in Pyongyang opened four and a half years ago. Finding a demand with a growing number of customers, the number of restaurants has grown to more than 10, including street stands, according to a source with the Singapore entity.

Pyongyang is said to have asked the company to make additional investments into North Korea to increase the number of its fast-food outlets.

Samtaesong, which means “three big stars,” represents the former and current North Korean leaders, including founder Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. The incumbent North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, visited one of the restaurants to try its hamburger in June last year.

According to a Singaporean visitor to the restaurant, all prices are listed in euros, and euros, U.S. dollars and Chinese yuan are the only accepted currency.

The cheapest burger costs 1.3 euros (190 yen, or $1.77). That is a fairly expensive luxury for locals, who have an average annual income of $1,300 (136,000 yen), but lines still form at the counter.

In addition to hamburgers, the most popular item, other menu items at Samtaesong include fried chicken, waffles and soft drinks.

In recent years, North Korea has called for more investments from Singapore, one of its closest allies, in a bid to rebuild its economy by boosting foreign capital investments.

“There has been discussion of a plan to attract other foreign fast-food chains than Samtaesong this year to North Korea,” said a source with a Singaporean company.

By ETSUSHI TSURU/ Correspondent
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Customers wait in line at a Samtaesong fast-food restaurant in Pyongyang. (Provided by tourists in Pyongyang)

Customers wait in line at a Samtaesong fast-food restaurant in Pyongyang. (Provided by tourists in Pyongyang)

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  • Customers wait in line at a Samtaesong fast-food restaurant in Pyongyang. (Provided by tourists in Pyongyang)
  • The exterior of a Samtaesong restaurant outlet in Pyongyang (Provided by tourists in Pyongyang)
  • A set menu offered at a Samtaesong burger restaurant outlet in Pyongyang (Provided by tourists in Pyongyang)

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