SEOUL (REUTERS, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Long lines formed on Friday (April 27) outside restaurants in South Korea’s capital serving Pyongyang-style cold noodles after the dish took on a starring role at a historic meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas'.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought a batch of the noodles for a dinner banquet on Friday, at the request of South Korean President Moon Jae In.
“We’ve made efforts to bring Pyongyang naengmyeon all the way from Pyongyang,” Mr Kim said in opening remarks at the summit, referring to the North Korean capital.
“So, hopefully, Mr President can enjoy Pyongyang naengmyeon from afar, though I suppose I mustn’t say ‘afar’ now,” Mr Kim said with a chuckle.
Naengmyeon is noodles in a chilled meat broth, topped with beef brisket, pickled radish, sliced cucumbers and half a boiled egg.
Mr Moon had requested that the dish be on the menu at the banquet, and asked Mr Kim if he could bring a takeaway batch from a famous Pyongyang restaurant, Okryu Gwan.
North Korean officials were happy to oblige, the South’s presidential office said, adding that North Korea had even sent a chef from the restaurant to prepare the dish.
Hungry South Koreans were clearly impressed and by midday #Pyongyang Naengmyeon was one of the top trending topics on Korean-language Twitter, while the lines at restaurants specialising in the dish, like the Eulmildae in a run-down part of Seoul, grew.
“This is the longest queue I’ve ever seen,” Mr Kim Won Seok, a regular customer at the restaurant, said of the customers lined up 40 metres just before noon.
In Gwangju, a theatre is offering free admission for people to watch the broadcast on its movie screen.
A long line of over 20 diners was spotted in front of Pildong Myeonok, a popular naengmyeon eatery in central Seoul.
"What else could it be for lunch today?" said 29-year-old Yoo Jung Min, who works in advertising, quipped.
"I think naengmyeon restaurants around the country will be packed today," said a Twitter user.
Major retailer E-land Mall was offering a 2kg bag of“Inter-Korea summit special Pyongyang naengmyeon” for 6,900 won (S$8.56).
The noodles were an unusual hit at a summit that many South Koreans are viewing with wary optimism.
Many South Koreans hoped the first visit to the South by a leader from the North would be a turning point for peace on the war-divided peninsula.
Some people watching a large television screen beaming images of the leaders to a crowd in front of Seoul’s city hall cheered and jumped with joy when Mr Kim – whose nuclear and missile tests last year stoked fear of war – crossed the border to shake hands with Mr Moon.
“I’m filled with emotion,” said Mr Park Ha Seok, 60, as he watched the pictures being broadcast from the border village of Panmunjom. “I don’t expect a big change but this is a start.”
The two sides are technically still at war because the 1950-53 Korean war ended in a truce, not a full peace treaty.
Dr Lee Ji Eun, a 32-year-old doctor and mother of a baby girl, said the pictures had made her unpack an emergency bag she had placed by her front door about six months ago in case of war.
“The bag has my daughter’s diapers, a portable radio and a gas burner,” Dr Lee said. “Now I find it funny that I told my babysitter to take this bag and my daughter to flee to the basement if there’s war.”
Fisherman Park Tae Won, who lives on a South Korean island just 1.5km from the maritime boundary with the North, said he hoped the summit would lead to a relaxation of restrictions on going out to sea.
“Please, we want to go fishing out there as much as we want, without the curfew on fishing only once a day,” he said.
Mr Choi Gwang Chun, who runs a restaurant in the South Korean town of Daejeon, is offering a special “unification liquor”cocktail made of Taedong beer, named after a North Korean river, and South Korean Halla soju, a distilled rice spirit named after a South Korean mountain.
“Those who order ‘unification liquor’ will also get a ‘unification pizza’ topped with nuts in the shape of the Korean peninsula for free,” said Mr Choi, whose father came from North Korea.
“I plan to run this offer until the day South and North Korea unify,” he said. “I hope I don’t have to run it too long.”