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Is Coca-Cola Now for Sale in North Korea?

Is Coca-Cola Now for Sale in North Korea?


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A YouTube video has many wondering whether the quintessential American soda has crossed the North Korean border

Coca-Cola in North Korea? It just might be: New footage of diners being served Coke in a restaurant has the world buzzing about whether the highly secretive nation has allowed one American conglomerate in.

The video isn't that revealing: The Telegraph reports that it's a video of tourists being served at a pizza restaurant in Pyongyang, where they were served two American favorites: pizza and Coke. The restaurant, supposedly a venture between North Korea and Italy, says that the iconic red-and-white drink is actually "Italian coke." So no one really knows what's exactly in that cup.

However, Coke in North Korea may not be all that new: defectors from the country told the Agence France-Presse news agency that Coca-Cola was popping up in stores in 1989, after the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang, and that Coke shipments from China began appearing in 2002.

The company has responded and said that any Coca-Cola products in North Korea would have come from "unauthorized third parties," and that the company doesn't do business with North Korea. If North Korea really does have citizens guzzling Coke, that means there's only one country left not drinking Coke: Cuba. Coca-Cola recently announced it would begin selling again in Myanmar this summer after trade restrictions were lifted, reports the LA Times.


Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola, or Coke, is a carbonated soft drink manufactured by The Coca-Cola Company. Originally marketed as a temperance drink and intended as a patent medicine, it was invented in the late 19th century by John Stith Pemberton and was bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler, whose marketing tactics led Coca-Cola to its dominance of the world soft-drink market throughout the 20th century. [1] The drink's name refers to two of its original ingredients: coca leaves, and kola nuts (a source of caffeine). The current formula of Coca-Cola remains a trade secret however, a variety of reported recipes and experimental recreations have been published.

The Coca-Cola Company produces concentrate, which is then sold to licensed Coca-Cola bottlers throughout the world. The bottlers, who hold exclusive territory contracts with the company, produce the finished product in cans and bottles from the concentrate, in combination with filtered water and sweeteners. A typical 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) can contains 38 grams (1.3 oz) of sugar (usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup). The bottlers then sell, distribute, and merchandise Coca-Cola to retail stores, restaurants, and vending machines throughout the world. The Coca-Cola Company also sells concentrate for soda fountains of major restaurants and foodservice distributors.

The Coca-Cola Company has on occasion introduced other cola drinks under the Coke name. The most common of these is Diet Coke, along with others including Caffeine-Free Coca-Cola, Diet Coke Caffeine-Free, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Coca-Cola Cherry, Coca-Cola Vanilla, and special versions with lemon, lime, and coffee. Coca-Cola was called Coca-Cola Classic from July 1985 to 2009, to distinguish it from "New Coke". Based on Interbrand's "best global brand" study of 2015, Coca-Cola was the world's third most valuable brand, after Apple and Google. [2] In 2013, Coke products were sold in over 200 countries worldwide, with consumers drinking more than 1.8 billion company beverage servings each day. [3] Coca-Cola ranked No. 87 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. [4]


The logo is red because of old tax laws

Shutterstock

John Stith Pemberton, who created Coke in 1886, had originally billed the soda as a "temperance" drink, or an alternative to alcohol. And because alcohol was heavily taxed in the 19th century, Coca-Cola wanted to make sure its (non-alcoholic) drink wasn't subject to those taxes.

"We began painting our barrels red so that tax agents could distinguish them from alcohol during transport," a Coca-Cola spokesperson told Business Insider. The bright color is still an easy way for fans to recognize Coke cans and bottles today.


Coca-Cola is sold in all but 2 countries on Earth. Here's what their ads look like around the world.

Ever since it was first created by John S. Pemberton in 1886, Coke has been a favorite among Americans, and starting in the early 1900s, it slowly grew into a global phenomenon. Today, there are two places where you still can't buy Coke: Cuba and North Korea. But that wasn't always the case.

Coca-Cola opened one of its first bottling plants in Cuba in 1906, but pulled production in 1962 because of a trade embargo, not long after Fidel Castro took over the country.

Since 1950, North Koreans haven't been able to buy Coke either, thanks to the Korean War breaking out that same year.

The only thing that has ever stopped Coca-Cola from being sold is politics getting in the way of business, with conflicts like World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War effectively ceasing production in some countries (trade embargoes haven't helped).

Despite political circumstances, Coca-Cola has managed to sell its wares almost everywhere (the last addition was Myanmar, which began internal bottling of the product in 2013). The company's advertising looks different in each of the over 200 nations where it operates — but the ads are still unmistakably for Coke.

Here's what Coca-Cola ads look like in 16 different countries around the world.


Gaining Popularity

Certificate of Purchase Class A Stock for 20 Shares of The Coca-Cola Company, issued 20. February 1929

Robert W. Woodruff expanded the Coca-Cola Company after 1923, and soon enough “six-packs” were being distributed and sold. Coca-Cola sponsored the 1928 Olympic Games, taking sales to a new level. During World War II, U.S. soldiers increased demand for the soda, and from the 1940s to the 1960s, more and more bottling plants were built. This allowed the company to build its foundation for global sales.

Starting in the 1980s, Coca Cola became a public company, Coca‑Cola Enterprises Inc. Soon after that Diet Coke was introduced, and became the best-selling low-calorie soft drink on the planet. Four years later saw a change in the soda’s formula, and it was hailed as New Coke. It was not successful, and the company soon went back to the original recipe. This was renamed as Coca-Cola Classic.

Soda is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and Coca-Cola’s revenues have been reported in excess of $23 billion a year.


Coke (Unofficially) Crosses Into North Korea

Coca-Cola (KO) doesn't quite have the whole world covered (yet), but one of the most recognizable corporate brands in existence appears to have gotten a bit closer now that it's been spotted in arguably the most secretive nation on earth.

Britain's Telegraph ran a piece Friday that included a video featuring Coke being served in what is said to be a pizza restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea. According to the article, the restaurant is owned by an Italian and North Korean joint venture company.

Coke told The Telegraph that any of its goods that have shown up above the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) "have been purchased by unauthorized third parties and imported into the country from other markets where they were sold," and that if sales of its products are happening there, it isn't being done with the company's clearance. In this case, the report says that restaurant-goers learn that what they are drinking is "Italian" Coke, not the American stuff. The video, which according to the time stamp was posted to YouTube last October, is below.

Even though Coke doesn't sell into North Korea officially, it does show the extraordinary power and reach that the cola has. Finding Coke in the DPRK essentially means that you've got as American of a product as there is in a place where the U.S. has no formal diplomatic ties and that is regularly and openly hostile toward Washington. Coke is Coke, whether it's from Italy or the States or anywhere else. Formulations and product tastes might vary slightly by geography, but Coke is undeniably part of the fabric of the red, white and blue.

This shouldn't be mistaken for what might be called soda-pop diplomacy, but if in fact the Atlanta-based soft drink maker has infiltrated the Communist state, even through unofficial and unapproved channels, it would leave Cuba as one of the few places on the planet you'll struggle to find Coke, The Telegraph reports.

Coke simply has a way of making it across reluctant borders, whether officials "want" it there or not. It's astonishingly popular for an obvious reason -- people really like to drink it. In some other nations where the U.S. has severe trade restrictions or even no governmental relationship -- say, for example, Iran -- you've still been able to find Coke in the past. How? Distributors in foreign locations are shipping the product in, whether, as noted above, they're supposed to or not (though Tehran did say in 2010 it was going to ban Coke because of Western sanctions).

Earlier this year, Coke set plans to get back to Myanmar, formerly Burma, a place where it hadn't done business for more than half a century, when the U.S. eased restrictions on corporate dealings with the country. So now it's up to Havana. And you have to wonder how much longer they can hold out. The rest of the world already knows "Coke is it."

The Mike Bloombergs out there might not like to hear this, but Coca-Cola officially sells in more than 200 countries, and its product count tops 3,500, including its flagship drink. Revenue in 2011 was $46.5 billion. According to the company's Web site, 1.8 billion servings of Coke products are consumed globally each day.

Do the math, and that means on average, about one-quarter of the world's population has a Coke beverage of some kind today, tomorrow and every day.

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(Bloomberg) -- The billionaire founder of KE Holdings Inc. has died of an unspecified illness, a shocking development for a Chinese property company that pulled off one of the strongest U.S. market debuts of 2020.Zuo Hui, who turned the company known as Beike from a nationwide chain of real estate offices into China’s largest platform for housing transactions and services, died May 20 after an “unexpected worsening of illness,” his company said in a statement without elaborating. KE Holdings’ board will announce follow-up arrangements within two weeks, it added.Zuo, 50, has been the driving force behind the company’s success, headlining the bell-ringing ceremony when it went public and holding 81.1% of voting shares under a dual-class voting structure as of end-February, according to its annual report. The company’s American depositary receipts fell 0.8% to $49.85 in New York on Thursday, paring an earlier decline of almost 10%.Zuo was backed by some of Asia’s most influential startup investors, including Hillhouse Capital Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd., and ranks among SoftBank Group Corp.’s most successful bets. KE Holdings almost doubled on its August U.S. debut, vaulting Zuo into the ranks of the world’s richest entrepreneurs with a fortune in excess of $20 billion at one point, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires’ Index.Its shares were up 151% from their New York debut through Wednesday’s close, conferring on the late chairman a net worth of $14.8 billion.In an interview with CCTV aired in April, he downplayed the significance of the IPO and the riches it bestowed.“Why should I feel excited?” he said, dressed in jeans, a dark blue vest and black sneakers. “This makes no difference to me.”Read more: Founder of China Property Site With No Profits Worth $20 BillionBorn in 1971 in Shaanxi province, Zuo graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Beijing University of Chemical Technology in 1992 before getting into sales and establishing an insurance business, where he made his first fortune, according to local media. He then founded Beijing Lianjia Real Estate Brokerage Co. in 2001, when China’s property market was still relatively young, and started Ziroom in 2011 to offer long-term apartment rentals. In 2018, he incorporated KE and launched Beike, becoming one of the country’s most celebrated entrepreneurs.Beike uses artificial intelligence and big data to improve its service and provide market insights, according to its website. As of June, the company boasted 226 million homes on its platform and 39 million monthly active users on mobiles. That’s swelled to more than 48 million mobile monthly active users and half a million agents.The platform also draws in others by allowing decorators, renovators and financial institutions to connect with buyers, creating an ecosystem of property and related offerings.(Updates with closing share price in third paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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I'm in the UK also and can buy that coke, and eat for less in some kebab shops. anon956921 June 17, 2014

When I was in France I tried Coca Cola and believe me, it tasted the same as when I was a child, 50 years ago. I was told they use real sugar and that was the difference between United States Coke and European Coke. anon345866 August 23, 2013

I'm from Argentina and the Coca Cola we drink here is just awful. It's bitter, it tastes like cough medicine and I just can't handle it, but a lot of people like it. It's weird, because I have memories of really liking coca cola until maybe 2005 or some year close to that time. I'm sure it was better a couple of years before. It's so bad that even I don't like these kind of drinks, and I definitely prefer Pepsi over Coke. anon329524 April 10, 2013

I am from Italy, and I have to say the Coca Cola that I was drinking until mid 90's had a different taste for me. I remember it was more sparkling and sweeter than now. It's true that it's different from one country to another, because I tried it in Germany, France, the U.K. and USA. I think the best is in USA and in Germany.

But I tried also cherry Coke in the USA, the UK, France and Germany and I think that the best taste is in USA and a little bit similar in U.K. I think that France and Germany's cherry coke is not delicious like the American version. anon320280 February 16, 2013

The US Coke is dangerous. Its proven that high fructose corn syrup causes cancer. The German Coke is the same Coke as Mexican Coke. It is made with real sugar. It is not as harmful as the US Coke. serenesurface January 21, 2013

It's not just the formula of Coca-Cola that changes in different countries. The name and looks can be slightly different too. In some countries, Diet Coca-Cola is called Coca-Cola Light. ysmina January 21, 2013

@simrin-- That's shocking to hear! Especially because Coca-Cola originated in the US. So one would think that the American one is the best.

But you know, it's probably an issue of palate. Did you drink Coca-Cola for the first time in the Middle East? That might be why you like that one better.

When I went to Germany, I hated the taste of Coca-Cola there, probably because I'm used to the taste of American coke. SteamLouis 4 hours ago

I'm originally from the Middle East and I still have family over there and I visit them in the summers. Coca-Cola in the Middle East definitely tastes different than in the US. I think the sweetener that is used is different. The acid content also seems to be different. I enjoy the Coke in the Middle East much more than American Coca-Cola.

I only drink Diet Coke and I drink it every day. I love the flavor of the Arab one. It's sweet but not overwhelming and the acidity is just perfect. The Diet Coke in the US is too acidic, it gives me stomach cramps. Sometimes I joke around and say that the American Diet Coke can clean rust. It's that strong in my view.

I wish they would bring the Coca-Cola formula from the Middle East here. StarJo December 12, 2012

Wow, I always thought that products by big name corporations like Coca-Cola would be required to be the same across the board! I'm surprised to learn that there is some leeway when it comes to bottling and flavoring.

I have become so accustomed to the Coca-Cola here in the United States that I doubt I would like it any other way. In fact, now that I know that there is a difference, I will take some Coke from home with me when I visit Europe this summer. orangey03 December 11, 2012

Well, this article makes me glad that I didn't try the Coca-Cola while in India! I had no idea that drinking soda could be so dangerous!

When I travel abroad, I'm afraid to drink the water. Now, it seems I need to be afraid of the soda, too! Perdido December 11, 2012

@Oceana – I have tried it, and I have to say that I prefer it over the American kind. The sweetness seems more authentic.

Some grocery stores and dollar stores also sell plastic bottles of “throwback” sodas that are sweetened with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. These are usually in the refrigerated section right next to the registers. This is a good way for you to get a taste of the good stuff.

I can remember a time when many soda manufacturers used real sugar instead of syrup to sweeten sodas. It is hard for me to drink the modern versions, because they actually taste like syrup. I buy the old-fashioned or the Mexican Coca-Cola whenever I see it for sale. Oceana December 10, 2012

Has anyone here tasted Mexican Coca-Cola? I'm curious about it. When I go to the Mexican restaurant down the street, I always order water, but I think I may try the Coke next time, just to see how it compares to the American version. anon102559 August 8, 2010

Thanks for this! I knew that the Coca-cola that I'm drinking in France tastes very different from the stuff I drink in the UK, but I didn't know why! I thought it was due to local preferences or something, but the reasons here make a lot of sense.


Coca Cola and Spritelaunch in NorthKorea. kind of

As Billy Joel once said, "Rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore". Well, we hate to break it to you Billy, but the cola wars are back on, as we discovered on a recent trip to North Korea.

On the train from Pyongang to Beijing, you can now quench your thirst for Western comforts with a sip of refreshing cola. the North Korean kind.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that these bottles of soda, purchasable for a bargain 7 RMB each, could be easily mistaken for Coca Cola or Sprite, although they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

We've long been fans of North Korean graphic design. Everything from matchboxes to chewing gum packets to tinned food tells a story, and discovering these bottles of Korean cola and lemon soda only adds to the complicated picture of everyday life in North Korea.

Interested in learning more about North Korean graphic design? Our 2017 Phaidon book, Made in North Korea: Graphics From Everyday Life in the DPRK, is one of the most extensive collections of North Korean graphic design in the world, showcasing the everyday ephemera that is part of daily life in the DPRK.

Discover North Korean design for yourself on any of our North Korea tours.


Conclusion

The link between Coca-Cola and Scientific organizations are ominous. The public relies on health advice from independent groups in order to gain information about what to consume, and this could be the start of a dangerous trend. If the public cannot get decent health advice due to Corporate manipulation, then society is in a precarious position.

Coca-Cola is a dangerous organization. Aside from the usual claims involving Illuminati symbolism and Cocaine in the beverage, there is plenty of real worlds actual evidence to encourage caution with the company. Studies have shown links between the consumption of HFCS and the emergence of diabetes and fatty liver disease. It is addictive and not good for the body. The sheer amount of claims by different organizations in different countries, as well as investigative reporters is cause for concern. While there is no conclusive link or findings, to say that Coke have not committed any criminal activity is naive in the extreme given the sheer amount of controversy generated.


Coca-Cola? In North Korea? The fizzy drink trickles in [Video]

The shaky video pans around a Pyongyang pizzeria, outfitted with red tablecloths, glasses of red wine, and a red soda can with that iconic white stripe.

Could it be? Coca-Cola in North Korea?

Though the YouTube video above from North Korea's capital was first shared last year by Western travelers, it inspired a recent flurry of interest as it picked up more viewers, curious how a quintessentially American product had turned up in the isolated nation. The U.S. places restrictions on trade with North Korea.

Coca-Cola announced during the summer that it would return to Myanmar as U.S. sanctions were eased, leaving only two countries on the globe where it does not do business: Cuba and North Korea. The company said it hadn’t taken North Korea off that list, telling the Telegraph that any products sold there were from “unauthorized third parties” who imported them from elsewhere.

“No representative of The Coca-Cola Company has been in discussions or explored opening up business in North Korea,” a company spokesman told the British paper.

Defectors from North Korea told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the drink has nonetheless been available in the country for at least a decade. “You can buy Coke at every private market in large cities whenever you're ready to pay up, although it is highly expensive, compared to other countries," Lee Suk-Yong, who left for South Korea six years ago, told AFP.

The fizzy drink is just one of the foreign imports that have apparently trickled into North Korea, a reclusive country that outside analysts often struggle to understand.

More outside information is seeping into the country through foreign movies, television and radio than ever before, a study commissioned by the State Department found this year. Nearly half of North Korean defectors surveyed said they had watched a foreign DVD -- an illegal and punishable act.

At the same time, new leader Kim Jong Un has sent North Korea watchers buzzing with gestures to Western culture, including a flashy concert during which entertainers dressed as Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh capered to the sounds of the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way.” Disney, much like Coca-Cola, said it hadn’t authorized the use of its characters during the summer concert.

But trying to read the tea leaves -- or Coke cans -- in North Korea is notoriously difficult, with past predictions that the country is on the verge of opening up to the outside world proving incorrect. Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola aren't necessarily harbingers of the country embracing reform, Georgetown University professor Victor D. Cha warned in a recent piece for Foreign Policy Magazine, recalling similar predictions in 1994 when the leader's father, Kim Jong Il, succeeded grandfather Kim Il Sung.

“But apparently, believers in the irresistibility of Disney Dior, and Coke have short memories and tall hopes of a China-type economic modernization coming to North Korea,” Cha wrote.


North Korea promotes barley beverage that resembles Coca-Cola

Aug. 14 (UPI) -- North Korea is touting a new self-developed beverage that resembles cola but is sourced from barley, according to a Pyongyang propaganda service.

Maeari said Wednesday the new cereal-based drink comes in four varieties.

"The four different kinds of barley drink have been developed and produced and have various health benefits for the people," Maeari said.

The propaganda service also said the drink is branded "Bright Morning" and uses ingredients exclusively sourced from North Korean barley and organic plants.

The regime described the beverage as a "health drink" developed through the "adoption of advanced science and technology."

According to Maeari, the barley drink aids digestion and relieves fatigue. The beverage also "clears the head, and the blood."

The propaganda outlet also claimed foreigners visiting a recent expo in the North Korean capital gave the drink high marks for "taste, aroma and health benefits."

The drink is being sold at Pyongyang department stores, Maeari added.

Images of the beverage bottle show a product that bears resemblance to Coca-Cola in terms of brand design.

Coke is sold in all but two countries, Cuba and North Korea, according to a recent report from Business Insider.

North Korea previously promoted health supplements, amid a worsening drought that has damaged crops.

In July, North Korea said it developed a powder of nutrients composed of dried clove buds.