Pyongyang (restaurant chain)
Pyongyang (Chosongul: 평양관) is a restaurant chain named after the capital of North Korea, with around 130 locations worldwide. The restaurants are owned and operated by the Haedanghwa Group, an organization of the government of North Korea.
Most Pyongyang restaurants are found in China near the North Korean border, as well as Beijing and Shanghai. Since the 2000s the chain has been expanding into Southeast Asian cities including Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, Vientiane, Dhaka, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. There are also restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, Vladivostok, Moscow, Dubai and Kathmandu. The restaurants initially catered to the many South Korean businessmen in Southeast Asia, and have now become popular with curious tourists.
The first Western outpost of the restaurant chain was opened in Amsterdam in 2012, in the residential neighborhood of Osdorp, along with Dutch co-owners. The menu and policies of this restaurant differed from its Asian counterparts. However, in September 2012, amid mutual accusations between the Korean staff and the Dutch partner, the restaurant closed. It reopened in December 2013 under the name Haedanghwa in a new location, but closed a year later.
It was reported that a new branch was set to open in Scotland, in line with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's interest in the country after its 2014 independence referendum, although this has been denied by North Korean officials. According to Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper there are some 100 North Korean restaurants in China alone.
The restaurants serve Korean food, including kimchi dishes, Pyongyang cold noodles, 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 consists of young 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. Staff from North Korea typically work on three year contracts, and are often highly trained graduates of arts colleges. Photography is generally not permitted inside.
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 send money every 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. In 2016, South Korea announced that 13 restaurant workers had defected from a Pyongyang restaurant chain abroad.
- Branches outside North Korea of Okryugwan or Okryu Restaurant that is a restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea, founded in 1960.
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