Would You Like a Coke With That Kimchee?

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The first American force into North Korea wasn't the Marines or the Airborne; it was the Coca-Cola company. Not three days after Washington announced it was lifting a number of sanctions against Pyongyang, the first Coke-laden trucks rolled across the Chinese border under orders from Atlanta. (The world's leading soda had, in fact, been exported to North Korea by a Chinese licensee since last September, but that was an independent move not governed by U.S. sanctions). Of course the sodas won't reach the thirsty peasants for some time yet; they're to be sold in hotels and other outlets catering to foreigners. Cold War veterans may also detect, in Coke's Korean coup, an attempt to erase the shame of Pepsi's having beaten it into the old Soviet Union by 20 years.

Perhaps in anticipation of Coke's arrival, the ruling Workers Party on Tuesday published a commentary warning North Koreans against acquiring a taste for things foreign, warning that "the blind copying of things foreign not suited to national interests and customs" would, in the end, "make a mess of the revolution." Exactly.




How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea? At the Mall, Of Course

Flooding North Korea with consumer goods may be a more cost-effective way of protecting the U.S. from missile attack than the projected $60 billion interceptor system that nobody's sure can even work. Herewith, TIME Daily's suggestions for Western companies that may help distract Pyongyang from its roguish ways. Please send us your own for publication:

McDonald's: It's been a while since most North Koreans have had anything that could be termed a "happy meal."

Prada: North Korea is the most uniform, and uniformed, society on the planet, and the Italian design studio's high-style apparatchik suits may be just the invitation Pyongyang needs into the world of couture.

E*Trade: Let 'em eat equities. Give them a stake in the markets and they're hardly going to do anything that would drive down stock prices (such as firing missiles at U.S. cities).

Sega: Some years ago a group of North Korean special forces infiltrators managed to elude their South Korean pursuers for weeks before being captured. How? Photographs found in their possession showed that they'd spent a lot of their time in video game arcades.

United Press International: Owned, these days, by the Unification Church, remember?

Loral: We hear Pyongyang has a pretty good rocket program — they even claimed to have launched a crude satellite into orbit, which beamed back broadcasts of songs praising the "Dear Leader."

CBS's 'Survivor': Makes a game out of being isolated and starving.

Suggestions from Readers:

Viagra: Let the North Koreans make love, not war." — Melinda Stein

"Send every member of the North Korean Communist Party a prepaid subscription the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar issue and that will distract them from their work on the rogue missiles." — Alex Teller

"Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and TRW: They'd bankrupt the North Koreans in no time by building billion-dollar missile systems that wouldn’t even work." — Andre DeHavilland

"e-Bay: I'm sure like any good communist state, North Korea is full of the best kitschy collectibles." — Marlon Miller

"Pepsi: To battle with Coke. Any society would prefer cola wars to cold wars." — T. Gibbons

"WWF: Since the North has so much stress and really do not know how to release it. Let them see how some entertainment can help you get your mind off the crazy things you have had to put up with for so long. Nothing like seeing CHINA or the ROCK in action. It's time people of North Korea learn how to tell the government they are under the real deal." — Tommy Williams

"Tums: Not only does the indigestion of many a stressed out, starving communist need calming, but it has calcium, something they ‘already need.’ I certainly would rather not have North Korea negotiating detente on an uspet stomach." — Vince Mareino

"All the unsold 'Phantom Menace' merchandise: Especially anything with the likeness of Jar Jar Binks. Probably the only way to unload this stuff is to sell it to people who didn’t see the movie." — Jim Mitchell

"HMOs: Can't speak to how much havoc they could wreak in a communist state, but sending HMOs over there might distract them from completing the ruination of U.S. health care!" — Lisa Aug