Pyongyang (restaurant chain)
Pyongyang restaurants are found mainly in China near the North Korean border and also Beijing and Shanghai, but in the 2000s the chain has been expanding into South East Asian cities including Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, Siem Reap, Dhaka, Vientiane and Kuala Lumpur. There is also one restaurant in Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar. The restaurants initially catered to the many South Korean businessmen in South East Asia, and have now become popular with curious tourists. A branch was opened in Amsterdam in 2012 along with Dutch co-owners, closed 7 months later, and reopened in December 2013 under the name Haedanghwa in a new location, which closed a year later. The chain used to have branches in Bangkok and Pattaya but these have closed down and back opened in Bangkok in 2015. It was believed that a new branch was set to open in Scotland, in line with Kim Jong Un's interest in the country after its recent independence referendum, although this has been denied by North Korean officials.
The restaurants serve 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 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 3 year contracts, and are often highly trained graduates of arts colleges. Photography is generally not permitted inside.
The first Western outpost of the restaurant chain was officially opened in Osdorp, a residential neighborhood in the outskirts of Amsterdam in February 2012. The menu and policies of this restaurant differ from its Asian counterparts, serving no dog meat or ginseng wine. However, in September, 2012, amid mutual accusations between the Korean staff and the Dutch partner, the restaurant closed.
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.
- Branches outside North Korea of Okryugwan or Okryu Restaurant that is a restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea, founded in 1960.
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- "Pyongyang Restaurants Extending Reach in Southeast Asian Cities (public domain text as cited)". Voice of America, Khmer-English. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
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- "North Korea denies reports Kim Jong-un is to open state-backed restaurant in Scotland". The Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- 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.
- Pyongyang Restaurant, [Archived link]
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