Choi Won-ho, head of a fried chicken franchiser that has about 70 restaurants across South Korea, said Friday he is opening a 50-table restaurant in Pyongyang on Nov. 15. It will also deliver chicken and beer to homes.
"I have wanted to be the world's best chicken brand," Choi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"But I thought it makes no sense to conquer the world without sharing food with our compatriots. That's why I went there first," he said. "I plan to get into the Chinese market via Pyongyang."
He laughed off concerns his venture may be too risky in the impoverished and isolated country of 23 million, where the elite citizens of the capital are much better off than others.
"I don't think that I'm going to lose money at all," he said.
It will be the first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, according South Korea's Unification Ministry.
Choi, 48, who has been in the fried chicken business for 15 years, said he hired an ethnic Korean Chinese as the main cook for the Pyongyang outlet and taught him all his cooking know-how. About 20 North Koreans will also work at the restaurant and five scooters will be used for deliveries, he said.
Choi said he invested about 500 million won (US$551,339, EUR382,264) in the joint venture with a North Korean trading firm that will take 30 percent of the profits from the business.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world and has relied on foreign food aid to feed the population for more than a decade since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy.
Relations between the two Koreas have improved significantly since their first-ever summit in 2000, spurring a series of exchange projects between the Cold War rivals that fought the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.
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