Pyongyang (restaurant chain)
Pyongyang restaurants are found mainly in China near the North Korean border, but in the 2000s the chain has been expanding into South East Asian cities including Bangkok, Jakarta, Pattaya, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Vientiane. The restaurants initially catered to the many South Korean businessmen in South East Asia, and have now become popular with curious tourists.
The first Western outpost of the restaurant chain was officially opened in Osdorp, a residential neighborhood in the outskirts of Amsterdam in February of 2012. The menu and policies of this restaurant differ from its Asian counterparts, with no dog meat or ginseng wine being served and photography allowed. However, in September, 2012, amid mutual accusations between the Korean staff and the Dutch partner, the restaurant closed.
The restaurants serve North Korean food, including kimchi dishes, Pyongyang "cold noodle", barbecued cuttlefish and dog meat soup. Patrons may also buy North Korean products such as ginseng wine and an unlabelled aphrodisiac claimed to be made from bears. The prices are relatively high and in US dollars.
The staff are attractive, young North Korean women in traditional Chosŏn-ot dress, who also perform karaoke as well as song and dance routines in the style of the North Korean Mass Games for the customers. Government propaganda, pervasive in North Korea itself, is not overtly present in the restaurants, though photography is forbidden.
According to Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, the restaurants are one of several overseas business ventures of Room 39, a North Korean government organization dedicated to acquiring and laundering foreign currency for the North Korean leadership.
North Korean defectors report that the restaurants are run by local middlemen who are required to pay between US$10,000 and US$30,000 each year to the North Korean government. The North Korean staff, who live on the restaurant premises, are said to be thoroughly screened for political loyalty and to be closely watched by on-site North Korean security agents. In the 2000s, according to Daily NK, several attempted escapes by waitresses in China led to the closure of several restaurants and the repatriation of their staff.
- Strangio, Sebastian (22 March 2010). "Kingdom Kim's Culinary Outposts: Inside the bizarre world of Asia's North Korean restaurant chain.". Slate. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
- "Pyongyang Restaurants Extending Reach in Southeast Asian Cities (public domain text as cited)". Voice of America, Khmer-English. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- "Noord-Koreaans restaurant al weer dicht". AT5 Nieuws. September 5, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- Kim, Min Se (19 June 2007). "North Korean Restaurants in China Send $10,000-30,000 Annually Back to Its Native Country". Daily NK. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
- Kwon, Jeong Hyun (21 March 2007). "North Korean Restaurant in China Shuts Down as Receptionist Escapes". Daily NK. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
- Kim, Yong Hun (15 December 2006). "Waitresses Flee North Korean Restaurants in Qingdao China". Daily NK. Retrieved 23 March 2010.