NORTH KOREA

North Korea’s first beer advert: a toast to capitalism?

Three minutes of sickeningly kitsch video is North Korea's way of advertising their home-brewed lager. In the land where advertising has been, until now, non-existent, is Kim Jong-il edging North Korea slowly towards capitalism?

Advertising

Three minutes of sickeningly kitsch video is North Korea's way of advertising their home-brewed lager. In the land where advertising has been, until now, non-existent, is Kim Jong-il edging North Korea slowly towards capitalism?

Taedonggang beer is produced in an English brewery which North Korea bought in 2000 for £1.5 million (€1.7m). The 185-year-old plant, which had just fallen into disuse, was shipped piece by piece to North Korea and then carefully reconstructed and officially opened in 2002. A bottle of the beer costs the equivalent of around one euro and weighs in at 4.5% alcohol. It's sold mainly in bars for foreigners.

North Korean report on Taedonggang beer

Actual advertising for the beer has only just been launched. There were, however, "documentaries" about the product beforehand, like this one.

“Kim Jong-il is simply trying to give the country a good image”

Kwon Eun Kyoung works for the news site The Daily NK, based in South Korea.

North Korean people drink far more than you'd imagine. That's what happens when people lead tough lives. Many defectors have alcohol problems even after having fled and settled down in South Korea. The most popular drinks are spirits like Kaesong ginseng liquor. Most people don't drink beer.

Taedonggang beer is not sold in South Korea at the moment. There are many North Korean restaurants, however, in areas such as the north-eastern provinces of China and South-East Asia where it is sold. Money made in these restaurants goes towards what is known as ‘Department 39' — Kim Jong-il's secret offshore assets.

The advert is nothing but a scam. The truth is that the authorities have no intention of making any changes. In reality they're trying to close down local markets, or jangmadang, which are many people's livelihoods. Kim Jong-il is simply trying to give the country a good image. It's a show. And looking at the reaction from foreign media, it's worked."

The beer that “will be a familiar part of our lives”

Translation of the jingle:

Taedonggang beer, Pride of Pyongyang,

It represents the new look of Pyongyang,

It will be a familiar part of our lives

The ad claims that Taedonggang beer helps you to relieve stress and live healthily.