A North Korean flight attendant for Air Koryo, the North Korean airline, closes the curtain which separates economy and business classes as they prepare to leave Beijing, China, for Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday Sept. 16, 2008. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

North Korean Mystery Meat and the Perils of Government Monopolies

North Korea has one airline, Air Koryo.  That airline is state-owned and has one food option, the “Koryo Burger.”  What’s in a Koryo Burger?  It’s hard to tell.  Some form of light gray meat (people debate what exactly it is), a humble leaf of lettuce or cabbage, cheese, and brown sauce within a sad-looking bun.

This mystery meat burger represents the unfortunate outcome of government monopolies, and North Korea is the epitome of the phenomenon.  With a brutal dictatorial government which oppresses its people, kidnaps foreigners for political purposes, and insists on threatening its neighbors it is perhaps surprising that it has an airline at all.  What is not surprising, though, is that the one airline it has would offer only one “choice” for food selections and a lousy one at that.  After all, what other option do people have?

It would be helpful to keep the image of the Koryo Burger in mind the next time someone suggests that the solution to a problem is a government-controlled monopoly.


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Aaron Simms

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