Food by VICE

North Korea Threw a Massive Cooking Competition to Celebrate Kim Jong-Il's Birthday

There ain't no party like a brutally authoritarian despot’s birthday party, because a brutally authoritarian despot’s birthday party don’t stop.

by Alex Swerdloff
Feb 10 2017, 10:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Tormod Sandtorv

Somebody needs to kindly inform all the dictators of the world that they should seriously consider a second career as party planners. After all, as the old adage goes, "There ain't no party like a brutally authoritarian despot's birthday party, because a brutally authoritarian despot's birthday party don't stop." You've heard that saying, right?

Next Thursday marks what would have been the 75th birthday of the notoriously autocratic late leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, father of its current leader, Kim Jong-un. But festivities in Pyongyang are already in full swing. That's because yesterday was the last day of a three-day long national cooking competition which saw more than 300 chefs making traditional Korean dishes in honor of Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.

READ MORE: Meet the North Korea Apologist Who Opened a Cafe to Spread the 'Truth' About North Korea

North Korea's state-operated news organization, KCNA, provided Reuters with a video of the competition, which shows female bartenders tossing drinks in the air and judges eating a variety of dishes at Pyongyang Noodle House, a Pyongyang restaurant that served as the venue for the competition. Although no evidence contradicting the video has emerged so far, Reuters points out it was unable to independently verify the veracity of the video.

Assuming the video is legit, what dishes does one serve to honor a despot? Numerous traditional dishes normally found in North Korea were among the offerings, of course, but pheasant meatball soup and some sort of blue cocktails were the most eye-catching.

Pak Hye Ok, a chef at Bongnam Noodle House, participated in the competition and said: "I've been participating in this contest several times, but I get to learn a lot of things every time I participate. This time, I'm presenting a pheasant meatball soup. The pheasant meat is good for people's health and its meat itself has a sweet taste, so there's no need to add many seasonings. Nothing can defeat a fresh pheasant meat if it is well seasoned with salt,"

READ MORE: A Guide to North Korean Food from a Man Who's Been Eating It for 14 Years

According to KCNA, this was the seventh cooking competition of this kind to be held by North Korea. Last year's iteration was met with criticism thanks to massive food shortages and widespread famine in North Korea at the time.

Kim Yong-il, a judge for the competition who is also a researcher with Pyongyang's Korean Association of Cooks, said he believes the contest will help to promote North Korean cuisine. "With this cooking contest, we can demonstrate our people's high cooking standards and their effort making these dishes with original recipes. I think this could be an important and meaningful momentum to improve our people's diet," the International Business Times reports.

This is by no means the only—or even the most outlandish—epicurean birthday party for a dictator in recent years. In fact, North Korea should probably take a page from Robert Mugabe's book. For his 91st birthday party back in 2015, the president of Zimbabwe decided it couldn't actually be considered a party unless he and his 20,000 guests feasted upon a young elephant, two buffalos, five impalas, two sables, and a variety of other animals you would normally expect to find in a zoo. Kind of puts Kim Jong-il's fête to shame.

All of this makes us pretty sure that Top Chef is ripe for a new spinoff: Top Chef Masters, Dictator Edition.

Kim Jong-il
birthday parties
North Korean Food