Vienna, Coffee, and …North Korea?

We all know and love the coffee culture in Vienna. Turns out, so does Pyongyang!

Though the country is notoriously tight-lipped about activities within its borders, apparently a Viennese coffee shop has been in operation in the heart of Pyongyang. Right on Kim Il Sung Square. This joint-venture project, initiated by Viennese entrepreneur Helmut Brammen in concert with famous Austrian roaster Helmut Sachers, is situated inside the Museum of Korean History. It’s certainly unusual for a famously Communist country, but not the first international establishment in Pyongyang. There are also some pizzerias, a Swiss café, and shops selling imported goods.

None of this is affordable for the average North Korean though. Only the elites and the international community of Pyongyang can pay the kinds of prices demanded for such luxuries. In the Viennese café, which bears the decidedly un-Viennese name of RyonGwang Coffee Shop, everything including the sugar packets is imported from Austria. A standard mélange costs 2 euros. It sounds like a bargain in Vienna, but is the equivalent of a month’s salary for the average North Korean! (C.G.)

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