It is little more than a footnote in the back-and-forth over the planned North Korea summit – but the rumor of a McDonald’s in Pyongyang is juicier than a three-patty Big Mac.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may allow a “Western hamburger franchise” into the country as a show of goodwill to the United States, according to an intelligence report described by U.S. officials to NBC. That follows remarks by South Korean adviser Chung-in Moon in late April, who said that North Korea might be interested in welcoming a McDonald’s as tensions ease.

Compared to the threat of nuclear war, of course, a Pyongyang McDonald’s seems like small fries. But experts and history suggest there’s more at play here than one token franchise.

McDonald’s has long been seen as a symbol of Western culture and capitalism – particularly in communist countries. And it’s expansion into China and Russia was seen as a landmark in the 1990s.

“This has happened with a number of different communist cultures,” said Jenny Town, a research analyst at the Stimson Center and the managing editor of 38 North, an academic news site about North Korea. “Once they start to get different points of contact with the West, it changes their views – and it usually starts with McDonald’s or Coca-Cola.”

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