It looks like maybe Pyongyang is getting a McDonald's.
It was revaled ruing the negotiations between North Korea and the United States about the summit scheduled for next week, that Kim Jong Un wants to build a "Western hamburger franchise" in his country's capital.
The front-runner restaurant? Who else but McDonald's, according to several published reports. It does make sense on a few levels:
- Both Kim and his late father are/were fans of McDonald's; the ex-"Dear Leader" reportedly had Big Macs flown in from China on Air Koryo airplanes.
- President Trump's affinity for the Golden Arches is well-known. If Kim wants the idea to be a bit of a nod to Trump, it's the obvious choice.
- Finally, McDonald's has long served as a sort of symbol for American or Western influence on cloistered nations. Just check out the 28-year-old footage at the end of this story, of the incredibly long lines outside the first McDonald's in Moscow, on the day it opened.
Certainly, it would become the most exotic of the 36,000 world's McDonald's restaurants. However, there's a big problem from the perspective of Americans who might want to visit it.
Actually there are a whole lot of moral problems--but for now we'll focus on the key legal one: "Do not travel to North Korea due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals," the State Department website warns.
In fact, pretty much the only American who's been allowed to travel to North Korea in the last 18 months is U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month, along with his entourage. For the rest of us--your passport isn't valid for travel there, and if you manage to pull off a trip anyway, you could wind up in federal prison when you get home.
Even before the U.S. prohibited most American travel to North Korea last year, the so-called Hermit Kingdom was one of the State Department's list of Level 4 countries, which are the ones to which Americans are warned not to travel, even if it's not technically illegal.
Also included on the list are countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. And, if you insist on going to them anyway, the State Department gives you some helpful advice, like "draft a will," and "discuss a plan with loved ones regarding ... funeral wishes, etc."
Also, be sure to appoint a family member who "serve as the point of contact with hostage-takers," "establish a proof of life protocol with your loved ones," and "leave DNA samples with your medical provider in case it is necessary for your family to access them."
The point being: It's a lot to go through for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. So, the ruling class and privileged middle class of Pyongyang will constitute the customers for any future North Korean McDonald's.
I'd just be curious to see how the franchisees fare at Hamburger University.
Here's the video of the first McDonald's opening in the former Soviet Union.