Jan. 7, 2018
By Leslie Young
A hungry Pyongyang worker going home at the end of a long day can visit the shop, pick up a package of instant ramen, some candy for dessert, and wash it down with a bottle of beer – all made in North Korea.
By most accounts, the beer is good. “A very drinkable lager,” said one frequent visitor to the hermit kingdom. “Exceptional,” said another. The magazine The Economist caused a minor furore on the Korean peninsula a few years ago when it claimed, “Brewing remains just about the only useful activity at which North Korea beats the South.”
The beer and other goods have been part of a deliberate push by the government, say experts, to increase the number of consumer goods on North Korean store shelves, and to decrease their reliance on Chinese products.
This is a relatively recent change, according to Jean Lee, former Pyongyang bureau chief for the Associated Press and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“Generally speaking, during the Kim Jong Il era, there were very few shops and very few products.”