One of the small perks of dealing with foreigners for North Koreans is access to the odd small luxuries of life that would otherwise be difficult to obtain in the country. Our newest partner assigned to work with us on the Women in Business program, a recent university graduate, made this point in a very chirpy New Year card. Last fall on a visit to North Korea, I went with our partners to the new restaurant (run by Hae-mat-chi) at the newly built Moranbong apartment complex. This restaurant had a bakery adjacent to it. When it came to ordering the entrée, our new partner got really excited. She started describing this “French Bread” in vivid terms to the waiter, explained how it had to be sliced meticulously, and how the bread expands to fill the mouth with its flavors. It was even more fun hearing it in Korean as it was full of the onomatopoeias found in the Korean language. The last time she had a baguette was 13 years ago.
When the North Korean interns for our entrepreneurship program were heading back to Pyongyang last year, we had one of them buy a baguette to bring it to our partner. Earlier this year, we received New Year greetings in the mail from Pyongyang and in it were special thanks for the baguette. Our partner described the baguette as “it is too small…but small is beautiful.”