HANOI — For North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, this week’s summit in Hanoi is a chance to advance the cause of world peace. For canny entrepreneurs, it’s an opportunity to make a buck, or a dong, in Vietnamese currency.
A U.S presidential visit is a big deal anywhere, and when it’s significant enough to draw wall to wall media coverage – as last year’s first summit in Singapore did – an enterprising businessman or businesswoman takes note. Drinks will be poured, burgers will be broiled and T-shirts will be silkscreened.
When Robert Gibb, an American who has been living in Hanoi for 10 years and is co-owner of a bar near Hanoi’s old quarter, heard the summit would take place in Hanoi, he sprang into action.
Of course he was keen to mark a historic occasion, but beyond that, his Unicorn Pub is noted for the elaborate libations it concocts, such as its ‘Pho’ cocktail, mimicking the taste of the famous Vietnamese noodle soup.
The summit celebratory drink, boasts the pub’s website, “is a diplomatic blend of So Ju (Korean) and Bourbon (USA) with a flare of Fireball whiskey to match the personalities of Kim & Trump. Orange in color, it is a bit sharp & bitter, but finishes sweet, peaceful and gives you the desire to continue in a positive direction.”
The drink was dubbed the ‘Rock It, Man,’ after Trump’s less-than-complimentary “Little Rocket Man” nickname for Kim when tensions were still high over Pyongyang’s long-range missile tests.
Gibb, whose two partners in the bar include his wife Trinh Xuan Dieu, said the new cocktail’s name sounded fun and celebrates “maybe for the first time in generations, opening up a country, opening the whole part of the world that was so tense for so long.”
Teetotalers need not despair they will be left out. A restaurant also in the city’s old quarter has added to its summit menu burgers called the ‘Durty Donald’ and the ‘Kim Jong Yum.’
Irishman Colin Kelly acknowledged the summit is an unusual opportunity to drum up publicity for his Durty Bird fried chicken and burger restaurant.
Conceiving the special dishes was something of a must-do because his establishment already has a lot of dishes with funny names and puns, said Kelly, who founded the place with two old friends.
“For the Trump it was quite easy, because American burgers are an American staple and Mr. Trump himself is very extravagant, so that’s why we went with double beef, double bacon, double cheese, fried pickles, and then we added the chicken floss, which represents his hair, which is one of Mr. Trump’s most noticeable features,” he said.
The sauce on it is Russian dressing, Kelly added mischievously.
“And then for the Kim burger, rather than using beef, we decided to go down the pork road, so we use smoked pork belly, smoked, pulled and barbecued wild boar – which is a wild Vietnamese mountain pig – and for the Korean element, we added kimchi mayonnaise and some crispy fried kimchi as well.”
“Both burgers are topped with flags.”
“Obviously, we’d like to make a little profit, but the first idea was just to get involved to what’s happening here in Hanoi … and to create a bit of fun for ourselves and for our customers.”
Those who have drunk and eaten their fill of Trump and Kim also have the opportunity to wear the two statesmen.
T-shirt designer Truong Thanh Duc’s creation features a portrait of a smiling Trump along with Kim, over the words “Peace Hanoi, Vietnam 2019.”
“This is the best-selling item I have ever had,” said Duc, wearing a T-shirt with Kim’s likeness at his shop in the old quarter. “We have been running full capacity, but could not meet the demand,” which he expects to increase even more with the media frenzy of the summit.
The 57-year-old Duc, who inherited the shop from his father, also produces and sells T-shirts with images of Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama, and made an earlier Trump model after his 2016 election.
He said last week he had sold some 500 summit T-shirts, with half being bought by foreigners and the other by Vietnamese, mostly young people. The price is 100,000 dong (USD$4.20), and Duc said part of his profit would go to buy bread for poor people.
The summit is important, he suggested, because dialogue is better than confrontation and could bring “peace, food, clothing and other good things to the Korean Peninsula.”
Vietnam would also benefit from the event, Duc said.
His viewpoint was shared by a customer.
“This is a huge political event, attracting much attention from the whole world,” said 42-year-old Hanoi resident Nguyen Thuy Hang. “We do not want to be left out of such a big event taking place in our city.”
“Apart from the political factor, this T-shirt is very fashionable, so why not?” said Hang, who bought one for herself and another for her brother who lives in Canada.