Petrol clams, party praise: A day on a North Korean beach

A photo taken on July 22, 2017 shows beach-goers dancing at the West Sea Barrage beach outside the coastal city of Nampo, southwest of Pyongyang.
A photo taken on July 22, 2017 shows beach-goers dancing at the West Sea Barrage beach outside the coastal city of Nampo, southwest of Pyongyang.PHOTO: AFP

NAMPHO, North Korea (AFP) - Take several dozen North Korean clams. Arrange vent-down on concrete slab. Douse liberally with petrol. Ignite. Add fuel until done.

It is a simple recipe, but one that avoids the need for electricity or a piped gas supply in the isolated, energy-poor country.

The "petrol clams" are fleshy and flavourful - the secret to avoiding a hydrocarbon taste is not to inhale while slipping them into the mouth - and a speciality of the West Sea Barrage beach at Nampho, south-west of Pyongyang.

The sandy beach lies at the far end of the eight-kilometre barrier across the Taedong river mouth - ostensibly built for flood control, but which also blocks access to Pyongyang, a few dozen kilometres upriver, for any invading navy.

At the beach, children equipped with pastel inflatable rings play in the shallows, while adults shelter from the sun under tents to enjoy clams and grilled pork, liberally washed down with soju, a Korean alcoholic drink.

Many of the visitors are work groups - North Koreans are often expected to socialise with their colleagues - and some are equipped with portable karaoke machines.

The hugely popular North Korean song "Mother's birthday" blasted out from one - the parent in this case being the ruling party.

"My mother - our mother - is the most tender in the world," the lyrics go. "Workers' Party of Korea - mother's birthday."