Were you fooled by the Pyongyang Express North Korean food truck? If so, you weren't alone, as many assumed it was simply another extension of the mobile Korean taco craze. Which is just what the people behind it were hoping would happen.
But as DrinkEatTravel and Grubstreet recently pointed out, the Pyongyang truck is just part of a grand marketing campaign for Homefront, a soon-to-be-released video game which centers around North Korea invading the United States in the year 2027. (Watch the trailer here.)
For a mock-communist truck operating under the tagline “Subsidized Good Food for a Better America,” they're certainly employing the basic principles of capitalism quite successfully. For the last two months, the Pyongyang truck has been sidling up to the likes of Kogi BBQ and Bull Kogi and selling similar Korean-style tacos for $1 – half the price the other two command. According to Tyrone Miller, part of the Public Relations team at THQ, the company putting out the game, the food is authentically Korean, though he can't say it necessarily reflects Northern tastes.
And slinging kimchi quesadillas out of a truck that sports a waving Kim Jong-il decal is only one part of a larger scheme. The marketing folks at THQ are staging a simulated North Korean “invasion” as a way to create interest in the game. At the recent E3 Expo gaming convention at the Staples Center, they offered free parking to anyone willing to fly the North Korean flag from their car. As it turned out, 600 attendees were. In the coming months we may see fake North Korean soldiers take to the streets handing out propaganda pamphlets while they ride around town in military vehicles.
So as free market-loving Americans, are we supposed to love this or hate this? Is this funny or in poor taste? Even THQ isn't sure. “We had a whole crisis management plan ready to go,” Miller says, “but thankfully we haven't needed it.” Though they imply that may change as the game's release day approaches and the marketing stunts get more intense.
And what will THQ do if L.A. just can't get enough of the cheap Korean tacos once Homefront launches and the truck disappears? “That would be a good problem to have,” Miller says, “but our goal is not to get into the food truck-management business. Frankly, we're not making any money on this.”