North Korea on Friday launched its first ever beer festival, which is taking place adjacent to an illuminated floating restaurant in the capital city of Pyongyang, state broadcaster Korean Central Television (KCTV) showed.
Served by waitresses in white and blue-colored uniforms, local beer drinkers and foreign tourists toasted with local beer while enjoying munchies such as western bread, nuts, and indigenous chili peppers, video released by KCTV showed.
The evening launch event was kicked up a notch with the addition of musical performances on the riverside and a sampling event where beer lovers judged and guessed the beers they were drinking.
Koryo Tours, which has so far brought 100 tourists to the festival, said the event was proving popular with their customers.
“All have enjoyed it greatly with the highlights being the interaction with a large number of local people who are also enjoying themselves,” said Simon Cockerell, general manager at Koryo Tours. “(It’s) a testament to the universal power of a couple of cold beers on a warm evening to make people get along with each other!”
The festival is featuring North Korea’s highest quality white rice and dark beers and several kinds of beers brewed at the Taedonggang Beer Factory, which was founded by the North’s late leader Kim Jong Il, KCTV reported.
“The festival would be a great opportunity to show off our world-famous ‘Taedonggang beer’ widely and improve its competitiveness,” a news reader quoted the director of the General Bureau of Public Service, Choe Yong Nam, as saying at the opening ceremony.
Hosted primarily for local Pyongyang citizens, the festival comes following steps by the Taedongang brewery to improve access to its now famous product in other parts of the country.
“Up to a couple of years ago, Taedonggang was actually very hard to find outside of Pyongyang,” said Andray Abrahamian, a regular visitor to the North and Honorary Fellow at Macquarie University.
“Now basically, you get it nationwide, so they do have a national distribution system,” he continued, adding other consumer products were also increasingly visible throughout the country.
The beer festival, an Oktoberfest of the North, is being conducted despite the toughest-ever sanctions regime to be imposed by the UN Security Council in the wake of Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test on January 6 and its long-range rocket launch of February 7.
And that pressure, it appears, was something also on the minds of its hosts.
“The Pyongyang Taedonggang beer festival shows our people’s lives filled with happiness and optimism, building up a people’s paradise and a highly civilized socialist country, while smashing the U.S. and its followers’ heinous moves to isolate and stifle the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” the KCTV news reader said.
The bright smiles and happy faces of the drinkers, who are mostly North Korean citizens, are in marked contrast to the pressure Pyongyang has faced from the international community this year.
One observer didn’t see a connection in the rationale for hosting the event and the outside geopolitical situation.
“I would simply ascribe this (the festival) to market forces and the desire to expand the brand awareness, plus making profit,” Cockerell said.
The beer festival has a capacity of more than 700 people, according to Cockerell. It will last around 20 days, with visitors able to enjoy Taedonggang beer from 7pm until midnight at the Taedonggang Restaurant Boat and around the wharf.
A secondary beer festival is scheduled to take place in September for the forthcoming Wonsan air show.
Featured image: Uriminzokkiri
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