North Korea: Taedonggang Beer Festival canceled on short notice

Just one week before its start, Taedonggang Beer Festival has been canceled without any further explanation. The festival was launched last year and offered an array of local beers, including North Korea’s white rice and dark beers as well as several brews from the state-owned Taedonggang Beer Factory. The festival, which was supposed to be repeated annually, drew about 45,000 visitors and showed that “our people’s lives [is] filled with happiness and optimism, building up a people’s paradise and a highly civilised socialist country, while smashing the US and its followers’ heinous moves to isolate and stifle the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” according to Korean Central Television.

"The reason for the cancellation is unclear […] but it is possibly down to the ongoing drought in the country that has caused a great deal of trouble," China-based tour company Koryo Tours, which organizes trips into North Korea, wrote on its blog. "It won't look great for Pyongyang middle class to be having a jolly good time while people are working on drought relief," Simon Cockerell, Koryo's general manager told CNNMoney.

The internationally isolated country may soon experience its worst drought since 2001, according to a recent report by the United Nations. Dry weather during the growing season of April to June heavily affected crops of rice and maize. Help from outside may also be limited because the socialist regime limits access of foreign aid to its country. On top, U.S. State Department said last Friday, it will issue a travel ban to North Korea for all Americans following the death of U.S. American citizen Otto Frederick Warmbier, who was arrested  last year in North Korea and died on June 19, 2017, six days after his return to the United States.

State-owned Taedonggang Beer Factory started operations in 2002. The brewery uses German equipment of the closed Ushers of Trowbridge brewery from Wiltshire, England. It was bought for £1.5 million ($1.95 million) at the behest of then-leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Il, dismantled and shipped to Pyongyang. Since then, North Korea has had a steady supply of beer.

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