Korean cuisine tends to be spicy and heavy on garlic but dishes in the north tend to be less spicy than those in the south.. Rice and noodles are the staple of all Korean meals, which are usually accompanied by a variety of tasty side dishes such as kimchi (fermented vegetables, usually cabbage, mixed with red pepper and garlic), cooked tofu, fish, steamed and seasoned vegetables, fried pupas, pickled turnips and multitude of other concoctions. Soy sauce, soy-bean paste, red pepper paste, ginger root and sesame seeds are the essential seasonings added to Korean food.

North Korean cuisine uses less chili and garlic that South Korean cuisine. The elite eat pork and sometimes beef, while the middle classes eat rabbit. The lowest classes rarely get meat. Dog is still eaten in North Korea as it is in South Korea. Rice too is associated with the elite while corn meal is the primary staple for everyone else. A CNN reporter on a North Korean tour said: “Food was varied. We ate lots of barbecues (duck, chicken, beef), rice, tofu, bean sprouts, and kimchi, a spicy cabbage. Occasionally – as a westerner – I was given disgusting burgers and chips.”

Hazel Smith, an expert on North Korea’s food security at the School of Oriental and African studies in London, told the Los Angeles Times: “Like a lot of places in Asia, rice is the favorite dish. If they can get it, they eat it. It’s really cold in the north of the country, so there’s more millet and even potatoes — they’re cheaper, but they’re difficult for North Koreans to store and move around.” Otherwise, “It’s the same diet as South Korea. If they can get the things they eat in South Korea in the North, they eat them: kimchi, bulgogi [barbecued beef] if they have the money, and bibimbap, rice and veggies. Or they just eat what they can get.” [Source: Jonathan Kaiman, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2017]

According to the (South) Korean Tourist Organization: “North Korean food is well-known to be served in abundant quantities and is not as salty or greasy as its southern provincial counterparts due to its colder climate, making it more desirable to the tastes of foreigners. Foreigners may question why the food is more bland in the colder provinces. Since Korea’s winter is long, fermented foods and foods that could be preserved for longer periods of time became much more well-developed. Therefore, in the warmer climates of the South, food had to become saltier and spicier for the purpose of preservation, whereas in the North, food did not need such preservation methods with its colder climate, and instead emphasized the importance of nutrition in their ingredients. Unlike the South, the North generally ate meat dishes rather than seafoods, developing meals centered around one dish.

Korean Dishes

Pulgogi is perhaps the Korean dish most popular with Westerners. Sometimes referred to as "Korean barbecue," it is usually made from tender slices of beef, or sometimes pork, marinated in a delicious sauce made with soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic and other seasonings, and then cooked over charcoal grill at you table. galbi is a similar dish made with short ribs instead of meat slices. Many Koreans like to eat meat in a lettuce leaf with pickled vegetables, sliced garlic and hot chili paste.

Other typical Korean dishes include shinsollu (a mixture of meat, fish, vegetables and tofu), galbit'ang (a soup made with slices of beef, thin noodles, rice, scallions and sesame oil), boshin'tang (dog soup), nachi bokum (octopus, vegetables, rice and noodles prepared in a hot red sauce), mandu (Chinese-style dumplings), manduguk (dumpling soup with vegetables and noodles or rice), bibimbap (rice with red pepper paste and bits of vegetables, eggs and meat mixed in) and hameul pajun (a large pancake with green onions, shrimp and diced squid).

You can also get chapch'ae (noodles with meat and vegetables), naengmyyon (cold buckwheat or yam noodles, often served in the summer with mustard vinegar and chili paste), jong-shik (or chong-shik, mini-banquest with 20 or 30 side dishes), hanjongshik (full course meal with pulgoggi and a host of side dishes), jajamyon (noodles with a brown Chinese sauce), jiggae (spicy stew made usually made with fermented bean paste), kimchi jiggae ( jiggae made with kimchi), barbecued chicken anuses and kimbap (sea-weed-wrapped disc of rice with tuna, cuttlefish, prawns, cucumbers, egg and pickled radish in the middle).

Common seafood dishes includes raw fish, live octopus, broiled eel, steamed red snapper, deep fried shrimp, stir-fried octopus, raw fish with soy sauces and a vinegary red pepper sauce, stir-fried cuttlefish, abalone porridge, raw sea cucumber, halibut, mullet, scad, anchovy, eel boiled in hot sauce and garlic, steamed rice and seaweed and octopus, lobster, crab, carp, prawn, shellfish stew, blowfish, pollack, steamed skate, steamed crab, and sea squirt.

Panchons include cooked tofu, fish, steamed and seasoned vegetables, fried silkworm pupas, pickled turnips and multitude of other concoctions. Soy sauce, soy-bean paste, red pepper paste, ginger root and sesame seeds are the essential seasonings added to Korean food. There is a large variety of spiced and pickled foods.

North Korean Dishes

North Korea is famous for Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles), flounder and shikhe. Popular dishes include Pyongyang Naengmyeon, Hamheung Naengmyeon, dumplings, Onbab, Kimchimaribap and Eobokjaengban. Among the delicacies that may be served at banquets for the elite party members are succulent roast venison, deer liver, raw kidneys, raw duck, snapping turtle soup, pumpkin stew with dog meat, stew made with deer skin. They are all considered special

North Korean dumplings differ from the small dumplings sold elsewhere. They are stuffed with filling and the size of a fist. Although the Sonmandu (handmade dumplings) comes with only three pieces to a serving, one serving should be ample as each Sonmandu is packed with bean sprouts, tofu, Korean leek, green onions, and pork. North Koreans like to dip the dumpling slightly in soy sauce. [Source: Korea Tourist Organization]

Bindaetteok is made with mung bean powder, pork, and steamed cabbages. It can be eaten alone as it is already well seasoned, but some people like to dip it in either pickled clams or soy sauce. Kimchimaribap is a crisp, clean soup. It is made with kimchi and ice, along with various other flavorings. The cool refreshing tastes cool you down to the heart, leaving you wanting more. To make it mix the Kimchi, cold Kimchi soup, and rice with your spoon and eat.

Hwanghae-do is North Korea’s granary province, and has more food varieties than any other region. People there have traditionally liked eating a jeollado, a banquet with many kinds of foods.

Roast Pork Belly is popular. Alek Sigley wrote: “Just like in South Korea, meat is eaten wrapped in lettuce leaf with slices of garlic. The pork belly comes with a brilliant ssamjang sauce (although it is called something different in the North), and compares favorably to what I’d often eat during the several years I lived in Seoul.” [Source: Alek Sigley, NK News, Tongil Tours, June 20, 2019; Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University]

Clams with Petrol, Cow Belly Meat and Catsup Soup

Simon Cockerell, who has been to North Korea, more than 150 times, told Munchies: "On the east coast, North Koreans cook clams on a sheet of metal. On the west coast, they pour petrol over them and set them on fire. Then they put more petrol on and keep going until they think it's done. They open them by smashing them on the ground, like the apes at the beginning of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” They always let the driver [of a tour group] cook, as if because he drives he's the only one who knows how to handle this exceedingly dangerous volatile material. The clams stink and taste of petrol, and you sometimes get one that was partly sealed, with un-burned petrol still inside. That's the game you play." [Source: Jamie Fullerton, Muchies,February 2016,, January 11, 2017]

One of the most popular and most frequently consumed soups in North Korean and the Korean areas of China is called big catsup soup. It is made from catsup, vegetables, edible seaweed, shallot, garlic and water. Sometimes, it is also made with meat or fish of various kinds. Big catsup soup, it is said, is not only tasty, but also whets the appetite and invigorates the function of the spleen, which is good for the health. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China,]

Eobokjaengban is favorite in the Pyongyang area. At restaurants each morning, the chef sets out to gather 90~120 kilograms of cow belly meat and meat from the cow’s milk producing region, and boils it with onions and garlic. The chef then removes the fatty oils produced in the process and uses the broth for their naengmyeon and Eobokjaengban broths. The clean-tasting, grease-less meat is cut into thin slices covering the bottom of the dish, soon topped with mushrooms, crown daisies, jujubes, and a variety of other vegetables, and finally showered with the prepared broth to create the Eobokjaengban.

According to Korea Tourist Organization: Eobokjaengban is prepared in a brass pot. The yellow color of the pot not only stimulates one’s appetite, but also evenly heats the food with alcohol. This dish is extremely popular, as it is a health food enjoyed in the absence of greasy oils. When the broth comes to a boil, take the meat and vegetables, dip it in the sauce, and eat. Occasionally take some broth from the pot and enjoy it off your plate. If there is not enough food, you may also order additional portions of dumplings or noodles and add it to the pot to eat after they have boiled.

Kimchi in North Korea

Kimchi — the pungent, often hot, mixture of fermented and pickled vegetables, often cabbage — is eaten everywhere in Korea, including North Korea. It has traditionally been eaten everyday at every meal including breakfast but this practice less common in the north than in the south as food is more plentiful and comes in a wide variety throughout the year in the south. Koreans say, kimchi is high in vitamins C, B1 and B2 and has a lot of fiber but few calories."We have lived with kimchi for centuries," one Korean woman told the Los Angeles Times. "It has become part of bodies. If you don't have it, your digestion process slows and your mouth feels out-of-sorts."

Simon Cockerell told Munchies: “If North Koreans can get hold of kimchi, they will eat it with every meal. It keeps well — it's made of simple ingredients and can be buried in the ground: an early form of refrigeration. North Korean kimchi is usually spicier than South Korean kimchi. My company has hosted lots of Koreans in China, and if they eat a few meals without kimchi, they get antsy. I know Koreans who worked in Mauritius. One said it was a paradise because they had cheap fruit and meat and lovely weather, but the worst thing about it was that cabbages cost so much there. It was all they spent their money on. But 'don't eat the cabbages' is an inconceivable thing to say to a North Korean." [Source: Jamie Fullerton, Muchies, February 2016,, January 11, 2017]

The Tradition of kimchi-making in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) was inscribed in 2015 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity According to UNESCO: The tradition of kimchi-making has hundreds of variants. It is served daily but also on special occasions such as weddings, holidays, birthday parties, memorial services and State banquets. Although differences in local climatic conditions and household preferences and customs result in variations in ingredients and recipes, kimchi-making is a common custom nationwide. Kimchi-making is mainly transmitted from mothers to daughters or mothers-in-law to daughters-in-law, or orally among housewives. Kimchi-related knowledge and skills are also transferred among neighbours, relatives or other members of the society who work collectively, sharing know-how and materials, to prepare large quantities of kimchi for the winter months. This activity, known as kimjang, boosts cooperation among families, villages and communities, contributing to social cohesion. Kimchi-making brings to the bearers a sense of joy and pride, as well as respect for the natural environment, encouraging them to lead their lives in harmony with nature.

Naengmyeon: North-Korean-Style Cold Noodles

The most well-known North Korean specialty is naengmyeon (naeng myun), buckwheat noodles in a cold beef soup, garnished with sliced boiled egg, pork, pickled vegetables and pine nuts. On eating North Korean style cold noodles, Kim Jong Il told Kim Dae Jung: “If you eat it in a hurry it doesn’t taste good. I hope that you will take your time.” Some places serve it with ice cubes in it.

The key ingredients are North Korean-style buckwheat noodle, North Korea liquor and North Korean-style bean paste. During the famine, when people were eating grass and tree bark to survive, Pyongyang exported large amounts of these ingredients to meet the demand for authentic Pyongyang-style namyeon in South Korea.

Naengmyeon is made with noodles made of buckwheat or starch, beef broth, thin slices of beef, julienne cucumber, julienne pear, boiled egg. The soup is refreshing. There is also bibim naengmyeon, which doesn't have soup but is mixed with red pepper paste instead. [Source: Korea Tourism Organization ]

Naengmyeon is considered a summer food, but that wasn’t always the case. It used to be enjoyed over a warm ondol floor (subfloor heating system) during the freezing winter temperatures. The broth was made with the brine of dongchimi (radish water kimchi) scooped out of a large jar half-buried in the ground during the winter. Although its origin remains unclear, based on the fact that buckwheat was introduced by the Mongol Empire during the Goryeo Dynasty, it is theorized that Koreans first began eating it around that time.

North-Korean-style cold noodles are made from buckwheat, wheat, corn starch or flour, corn, jowar plus peels of elms. When making it: 1) put the noodles into a cooking pot with boiled water. 2) When they are cooked, take the noodles out, wash them continuously with cold water and save the water for later use. 3) In addition, stew a pot of soup with thin beef or chicken, and let it cool off for later use. 4) Add the soup into the noodles, and mix it with condiments like red pepper powder, soy sauce, vinegar, monosodium glutamate, sesame, and pickles, together with slices of beef, chicken or egg filaments. The soup plays a key role in making the cold noodle, and therefore the saying "seven parts the soup, three parts the noodle". There are broth types, bean juice types and pickle types of cold noodles. The choicest type is pheasant soup. When the soup is ready, one is supposed to throw out the grease to get rid of the fishy smell. Cold noodle are smooth and stretchy with a sweet, sour peppery taste. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China,]

Naengmyeon Restaurants

Okryukwan noodle house is regarded as one of the best places to get cold North Korean style noodles. In 1999, it became one of the first North Korean enterprises to open a branch in South Korea. Using buckwheat and utensils shipped from Pyongyang, it was so busy that it turned away as many as 3,000 customers a day. One man who waited in line only to get inside after they were sold out told Newsweek, “I will come back because this is much easier than going all the way to Pyongyang.”

Elaine Louie wrote in the New York Times: “Jung-hyun Kim was 3 years old when his mother fed him a dish that changed his life. It was a bowl of homemade buckwheat noodles — naeng myun — that she made in their home in Pyongyang, now North Korea. The noodles nested in cold, mild beef broth topped with slices of tender beef brisket, sweet Asian pear, lightly pickled white radish, cucumber and half a hard-boiled egg. Eating it was as close to an epiphany as a little boy can get. “There’s a little bit of sweetness, and a little bit of sourness,” said Mr. Kim, 73, through an interpreter, a daughter, Jenny Cha. “It’s very refreshing and very cool. If you ask me why I love it, I love it. Does there have to be a reason?” [Source: Elaine Louie, New York Times, July 19, 2006]

“In 1961, after settling in Seoul, South Korea, he opened a restaurant named Dae Dong specializing in naeng myun, the first of five of those restaurants he would open in Korea, Paraguay and New York before retiring. “If I want to eat it, I have to spend a lot of money,” he said recently over a bowl at Dae Dong in Flushing. “But if I do a naeng myun business, I can eat it whenever I want, and as often as I want.” He ate it daily, three times a day, until he retired in 1999.

“He is not alone in his love for the cold noodles, one of Korea’s most popular dishes, especially in the summer. The noodles, sometimes called Pyongyang naeng myun, are a light, one-dish meal with bursts of flavor — a crunch of mildly vinegared radish, a spurt of crisp, juicy pear and, of course, the savory noodles. A spicy, brothless version called Hamhung naeng myun, which originated in the city of that name in North Korea, is made with slightly chewier sweet-potato noodles and a sauce of minced fresh red chilies, fresh red bell peppers, garlic, ginger, onions, sugar or honey, ground sesame seeds and sesame oil. It’s topped with the same pyramid of brisket, pear, radish, cucumber and egg.

At Kang Suh, at 1250 Broadway (32nd Street) in Manhattan, and also at the Yonkers branch, the dish is served with a ladle of cold beef broth added to the noodles. A variation is topped with very chewy, raw skate rather than brisket.

Making Naengmyeon and Enjoying It with a Long, Cool Slurp

Elaine Louie wrote in the New York Times: “The best naeng myun are freshly made. At Dae Dong at 17 West 32nd Street in Manhattan, Sang Sup Seo, the chef, mixed the dough from buckwheat flour, regular wheat flour, hot water and a splash of carbonated water mixed with rice vinegar, “to hold the dough together,” he said. With his fingers, he mixed it in the bowl of a machine that kneaded it and then extruded it in a cylinder 14 inches long by 3½ inches across, enough for 6 servings. The chef placed some dough into the steel cylinder of an automated noodle-making machine. He pressed a lever, pushed a button, and a cylinder pressed the dough through a perforated cap in 294 slender strands. The fragile pale beige noodles, each 2 feet long and a scant one millimeter in diameter, dropped out of the machine directly into a pot of boiling water. [Source: Elaine Louie, New York Times, July 19, 2006]

“Mr. Seo twirled the noodles around for a minute and a half, removed them to a sink of cold water to stop the cooking, and then to a sink of ice water to make them firm. He mixed the noodles in a serving bowl with an icy slush of broth from a refrigerated steel tub and then anointed it with the pear, kimchi and beef. When the noodles were presented to Mr. Kim, he added a tablespoon of rice vinegar and a teaspoon of mustard, and gently mixed the noodles. (Waitresses offer to cut the noodles in half with scissors, since a skein of one-foot-long noodles is easier to eat than one of two-foot-long noodles.)

:Mr. Kim of Dae Dong recalled using a wooden noodle-making machine when he was growing up. The apparatus weighed about 30 pounds, and was communally owned by three or four families. When his family wanted to use it, a family member went to the neighbor’s house, dismantled the machine, and carried the parts home. Chang Lai Ahn, the chef at Kum Gang San at 49 West 32nd Street, who has been making naeng myun for 40 years, had to push the dough through the old-fashioned machines using “brute force,” he said through an interpreter.

“Naeng myun is best eaten at restaurants, where it costs around US$12. The noodles are not good for takeout. They will stick to each other, said Soo Lee, the manager of Kum Gang San. “They will become one chunk in 15 minutes.” “If you live next door, and you take this out,” Ms. Lee said, “you will take the noodles separate from the rest of the ingredients, and you can soak the noodles in ice water to separate them. But you would have to be next door.”

“But at Dae Dong, Mr. Lee’s son-in-law, Charles Cha, who manages the restaurants with his wife, Jenny, said naeng myun can last for 30 to 40 minutes. He has a secret. “We wash the noodles differently when it’s for takeout,” he said. “We wash them in ice water, and then add a half teaspoon of soy or canola oil to trap the moisture.” Dae Dong does not cook the noodles until the takeout customer arrives at the restaurant. Then the customer has to race home.”

Types of Naengmyeon

Pyongyang naengmyeon is comparably fresher tasting and more flavorful than the starchy naengmyeon of the south. The noodles contain a lot of buckwheat starch Simon Cockerell told Munchies: Naengmyeon is the "the classic North Korean dish... So classic there's a song about it: "Naengmyeon, naengmyeon, Pyongyang naengmyeon!" Music is a form of propaganda, so to mention food gives people a sense of national pride, and also shows security in food. Pyongyang cold noodles are made from buckwheat. They're black and served in a clear, cold broth and normally have dried egg, a few slices of meat, and hot sauce. They look ugly but taste good. Long noodles refer to long life, or a long time being married. Everyone at a wedding gets served cold noodles, and the idea that you would say, 'No noodles, thanks' would be exceedingly rude." [Source: Jamie Fullerton, Muchies, February 2016,, January 11, 2017]

It is said the secret of good Pyongyang naengmyeon is North Korean Dongchimi (watery radish Kimchi) that is prepared daily. The Dongchimi is preserved in a pot and then buried in the ground. It is ready to eat after one week during the summer, or one month during the winter.The proper portions of meat broth to Dongchimi is 7:3 in the Nampomyeonok’s Pyongyang-style naengmyeon. To properly eat it cut the noodles with a pair of scissors 2 or 3 times, then slightly break apart the clumps with your chopsticks. Don’t forget to take a drink of the broth while eating the noodles. Also eat the vegetables and meat in the broth as well. Add vinegar and mustard sauce prepared on the table, accordingly to your taste.

There are generally two types of naengmyeon. One is the Mulnaengmyeon, generously filled with meat broth, and the brothless Bibimnaengmyeon, flavored with a spicy sauce. Pyongyang province is well known for their Mulnaengmyeon, while the Hamheung province is widely popular for their Bibimnaengmyeon.

Bibimnaengmyeon specialty was developed in 1955 by an old woman born in Hanhyeseon. This naengmyeon doesn’t use the buckwheat-based noodles of the Pyongyang Naengmyeon. Instead it uses 100 percent sweet potato-based noodles. Bibimnaengmyeon and Hoenaengmyeon are similar. Their differences lie in that Hoenaengmyeon is slightly spicier and is garnished with fish, rather than the simple pickles, eggs, and meat of the Bibimnaengmyeon. Hamheung’s naengmyeon is best enjoyed with cup of the broth from Mulnaengmyeon. When eating Hoenaengmyeon is much spicier and sour than the Bibimnaengmyeon. To enjoy them cut the noodles with a pair of scissor 2 to 3 times, then mix the noodles with the sauce until the grey noodles become red. Then eat with chopsticks.

Snacks in North Korea

During North Korea’s cold winter nights, people take out slightly frozen Kimchi, sesame oil, and sesame seeds and mix it within a bowl of cooled rice, as a late-night snack. At their hotel, Westerners are sometimes served spaghetti and cucumber sandwiches. "bingsu" — a syrupy treat made with shaved ice — is served in a bowl after bowl of spicy dog meat soup.

In 2001, “Countries and Their Cultures” reported: North Korea does “not seem to have candies or sweets for children: sugar is in short supply and regarded as a highly luxurious ingredient. Only when one visits the ranking officers' stores where one can use foreign currency is there a poor variety of sugary sweets. Basic food is rationed, while one can buy canned meat or a small amount of vegetables either from a store or farmers' market. [Source: “Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

In 2014, Andrei Lankov wrote in NK News: Elite “children are fond of cheap (and seriously unhealthy) sweets imported mainly from China. Obesity is said to be an increasing problem among the elite North Korean children and teenagers. It is not incidental that Choco Pies have become tremendously popular in North Korea. They have become not only a treasured present but also a sign of success. [Source: Andrei Lankov for NK News, The Guardian, June 11, 2014]

Jamie Frater wrote in Sundae (Boiled Intestine Sausage) has no relation to western ice cream sundaes. “Sundae is a cow or pig’s intestine, stuffed like a sausage with various ingredients. They are a type of blood sausage and can be stuffed with seafood to give you a squid sundae (I bet you never thought you would hear that) or a dried pollock sundae. Typically, the dish is boiled or steamed. Sundae is a very popular street food in both South and North Korea, and you should try it if you get the chance. [Source: Jamie Frater, Listverse,, May 1, 2011]

Dak Dong Jib (Chicken Gizzard): A gizzard is part of an animal’s digestive tract which functions to grind down food. It is made of thick muscular walls. Dak Dong Jib is often wrongly referred to as chicken rectum, but this is not accurate. It is actually a form of sundae and is very common (and popular) in North Korea. Because it is such a heavy dish, it is very popular as a drinking side dish as it helps to absorb alcohol. While it is very common in North Korea, you have to hunt a little harder in South Korea to find it.

Simon Cockerell, told Munchies:"KHC, a stall in North Korea next to a rifle range and bowling alley, sells potato chips. But no one in North Korea knows what KFC is, so why bother ripping it off? The crisps taste like Salt 'n' Shake crisps, but without the salt...They do have domestic production of crisps in North Korea, but you don't see many people walking around munching them. If you order them in a bar, they always cut off the packet top with scissors and pour it on to a plate to bring a sense of class. For snacks, people prefer dried squid, but mostly fish. Dried squid with mustard and soy sauce goes well with beer." [Source: Jamie Fullerton, Muchies, February 2016,, January 11, 2017]

Dog Meat in North Korea

Dog meat is generally eaten on special occasions in the north and is regarded as a boost in the summer time. According to AFP: Dog meat is called dangogi, or 'sweet meat,' a euphemism coined by North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung in the early 1980s. Dangogi-jang is dog meat soup. Dog meat is enjoyed in both North and South Korea, especially during hot summer days. But while dog meat restaurants in the South are assuming a low-profile because of international criticism, in the North dangogi cuisine is a source of pride and a mark of national identity. [Source: AFP, July 25, 2009]

Simon Cockerell, who has been to North Korea, more than 150 times, said: “People don't say they're eating dog, but there's no shame in eating it in the country. It's a delicacy and people eat it maybe once or twice a year, if they can afford it. There are, of course, a large number of people who don't have this choice and will rarely eat meat. Most of the time what they offer to tourists is dog soup. It tends to be spicy and not have that much dog in it, and there are a few restaurants in Pyongyang that specialise in dog meat: dog ribs, dog steak. It's not the best taste, but if it's done right it's OK. It's fairly gamey and can be a bit heavy. I find it tough, but I have had tender dog meat. There isn't much culture of dogs as pets in North Korea. There are guard dogs and farm dogs, but you'd have to be pretty middle class to own a pet one." [Source: Jamie Fullerton, Muchies, February 2016,, January 11, 2017]

According to Associated Press: As is the case with almost everything, good statistics are not available for how much dog is eaten in the North. "It's been our national food since olden times," explained Kim Ae Kyong, a waitress at the Pyongyang House of Sweet Meat, the largest dog specialty restaurant in the North Korean capital. "People believe that heat cures heat, so they eat dog meat and spicy dog soup on the hottest days. It's healthier than other kinds of meat." The restaurant's menu lists more than a dozen dog dishes, including ribs, hind legs and boiled dog skin. [Source: Associated Press, July 27, 2018]

“Like their neighbors to the South, North Korean attitudes toward dogs are changing. It is increasingly common to see people walking their dogs on leashes in Pyongyang and other cities in the North, a trend that seems to have just begun to catch on over the past few years. Feral dogs are common in the countryside, however, and left to fend for themselves.

“How leader Kim Jong Un feels about all this isn't known. But in January he made a point of donating 30 pet dogs of seven breeds — including a bulldog — to Pyongyang's newly renovated Central Zoo, where dogs are put on display much like the wild animals. The canine center at the zoo is, in fact, one of its most popular attractions, and posters near the cages explain how to properly care for and feed — not eat — canine companions.”

Eating Dog Meat in the Summer in North Korea

In 2018, Associated Press reported: In North Korea, summer is not a good time to be a dog. In the sizzling heat, North Korea's biggest brewery is pumping out twice as much beer as usual, Pyongyang residents are lining up to get their "bingsu" — a syrupy treat made with shaved ice — and restaurants are serving up bowl after bowl of the season's biggest culinary attraction: spicy dog meat soup. Euphemistically known as "dangogi," or sweet meat, dog has long been believed to be a stamina food in North and South Korea and is traditionally eaten during the hottest time of the year, giving a sad twist to the old saying "dog days of summer." [Source: Associated Press, July 27, 2018]

“The dates are fixed according to the lunar calendar and dog meat consumption centers around the "sambok," or three hottest days — July 17 and 27, and Aug. 16 this year. Demand appears to be especially high this year because of a heatwave in East Asia. Temperatures in the North have been among the highest ever recorded, hovering near 104 Fahrenheit in several cities.

In 2009, AFP reported: “North Korea is promoting the virtue of dog meat as a way to beat the summer heat and says customers are packing Pyongyang restaurants which serve the traditional dish. The North has been hosting dog meat food contests to help develop the traditional cuisine, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday. 'Our ancestors believed hot dangogi soup consumed during the dog days of summer helped prevent diseases from malnutrition and bolster stamina,' KCNA said. [Source: AFP, July 25, 2009]

It cited a 17th century book on herbal medicine to tout the nutritional value of dog meat. According to the book, dog meat is especially good for the digestive organs, blood circulation and bone marrow and improves stamina. 'During the current dog days of summer, many customers are visiting dangogi restaurants in Pyongyang,' KCNA said. 'Dangogi-jang is becoming popular even among Koreans living abroad and foreigners as well,' it said. Defectors say Pyongyang has many dangogi restaurants but note that dog meat has become a luxury elsewhere in the impoverished communist state.

North Korea Calls Dog Meat a 'Stamina Food'

In 2016, North Korea called dog meat 'stamina food' and encouraged North Koreans to eat more of it, saying it contains more vitamins than chicken, beef, pork and duck. According to the Dail Mail: DPRK Today, a North Korean YouTube propaganda channel, suggested that dog meat is good for the stomach and intestines” and “claimed that in order to increase the taste, the canine must be beaten to death and its fur should be removed before being scorched. [Source: Abe Hawken For Mailonline, 15 August 2016]

The Korean Central Television (KCTV) featured a story which claimed a reopened dog meat restaurant in Pyongyang is 'being successful in making dog meat more unique.' And radio station Tongil Voice described dog stew as the 'finest medicine' when describing 'dangogi'. They reported: 'There's an old saying that even a slice of dangogi can be good medicine during the dog days.

Yi Whan-woo wrote in the Korea Times: “The Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS), also a radio network, introduced culinary competitions in Pyongyang in which contestants made stew, broiled dishes and other recipes using dog meat. "The contest showed a part of our excellent traditions and customs," the KCBS proclaimed. "It also took place in a timely manner considering we've been improving our living and culinary culture in line with our goal of building a highly-civilized socialist state." Citing an encyclopedic text of medicines written during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), DPRK Today, a propaganda outlet on YouTube, proclaimed in June that dog meat has more vitamins than chicken, pork, beef and duck and is also good for the intestines and stomach. [Source: Yi Whan-woo, Korea Times, August 15, 2016]

Kim Il Sung Ate Dog Meat Everyday: the CIA

CIA documents released in 2017 said that Kim Il Sung, the founder and first leader of North Korean consumed meals containing dog meat at least twice a day. The North Korean revolutionary favored dishes of dog meat crammed with chicken everyday and demanded his “favourite food” for both morning and evening meals. [Source: Joshua Nevett, Daily Star, 25th January 2017

The Democratic People's Republic's “Eternal President” was so fond of the meat, it drove him to “obesity”, it the CIA claimed. The document states: “Kim preferred all kinds of meats to other foods and ate fish and vegetables only rarely. A basic item of each meal was rice mixed with Indian millet. “His favourite food, however, was dog meat stuffed with chicken, which he demanded every day at both the morning and evening meals.

“It was rumoured in Pyongyang that his fondness for this dish was responsible for his growing obesity.” Kim Il-sung, who ruled for 46 years until his death in 1994, was also lent a hand in the kitchen. The May 1951 document adds: “Kim’s relations with his staff were good, and he would occasionally step into the kitchen to discuss the method of cooking some dish or to demonstrate it, for cooking was his hobby.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, Daily NK, NK News, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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