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Pyongyang gets luxury restaurant despite shortages

13 july 2011, 10:59
Well-heeled diners in North Korea now have another luxury restaurant and leisure facility, complete with sauna and gym, highlighting the growing gulf between rich and poor in the communist state, AFP reports.

The venue in Pyongyang is the result of a joint venture between the North's culture ministry and Hong Kong-based Phoenix Commercial Ventures, the company said in a website posting seen Tuesday.

Its new building in the capital included "The Restaurant at Hana", a swimming pool, sauna, bar, gym and hairdressing salon, Phoenix said on its website. The facilities are open to locals and foreigners alike, it said.

Photos and a video show a restaurant with shiny marble floors and chandeliers, with flat-screen TVs hung in each private dining room.

The announcement highlighted the wealth gap in the North, where UN food agencies say a quarter of the population suffers serious food shortages.

The joint venture, Hana Electronics JVC, established in 2003, produces and sells DVD and VCD players and employs more than 200 workers in North Korea.

Phoenix said about 150 bars and 350 restaurants operate in the capital Pyongyang while some cafes, karaoke bars and pool halls open late into the night as long as there are customers.

"The DPRK (North Korea) is undertaking small experiments with free market economy principles that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago," it said.

Restaurants and bars catering to foreign tourists are valuable sources of hard currency for the impoverished state.

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