News / Asia

Pyongyang Restaurants Extending Reach in Southeast Asian Cities

Waitresses not only serve food, they also put on musical performance for the customers in the Pyongyang Restaurant.
Waitresses not only serve food, they also put on musical performance for the customers in the Pyongyang Restaurant.
Yong Nie

North Korean restaurants are offering a rare glimpse to the country's reclusive culture by growing its network in major Southeast Asian cities. The restaurants, bearing the brand name Pyongyang after the capital city of North Korea, are serving everything from cold noodles to quirkier dishes such as dog meat casserole.

At first, the establishments catered to South Korean businessmen in the region. But in recent years, they have seen an increasing number of tourists and locals craving Korean cuisine.

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, the Pyongyang restaurant, the first opened in Southeast Asia, is a hit among Asian tourists, especially those from South Korea, China and Japan.

Waitresses exchange elegant smiles and occasionally make small talk with customers as they pour wine into dainty cups and serve thinly-sliced barbecued pork meat on white porcelain plates to restaurant patrons.

The main dining hall, which can seat 400 guests at a time, is usually full for dinner as busloads of tourists arrive at the restaurant for an authentic North Korean meal after a long day at the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

In Siem Reap alone, there are two North Korean restaurants, the first established in 2002. Since then, Pyongyang restaurants have opened in other cities including Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

A Pyonyang staff member in Siem Reap said the restaurants are managed by companies linked to the North Korean government, while the staff is recruited by similar agencies.

The Pyongyang restaurants are said to operated by the North Korean government to as a source of foreign currency.

Wearing traditional, knee-length turquoise Korean handboks, the ivory-skinned waitresses whisk in and out of the kitchen carrying platters of Korean cuisine. Later they trade in their traditional costumes for Western-style dresses and tap-dance shoes to perform while customers enjoy their meals.

A 22-year old waitress, trained in culinary studies, who wanted to remain anonymous, explained that all the waitresses have undergone some form of training in dance and music schools, apart from studies in college. She explained that working abroad at the Pyongyang restaurant was a management trainee exercise and the staff would generally rotate every three years.

While the waitresses do not openly praise North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung or present leader Kim Jong-Il. Nonetheless, the business sends a subtle message that North Korea is a happy and blessed country, as seen by large paintings of tigers, snow-capped mountains and abundant fruits hanging from its trees don the restaurant, while videos of beautiful scenery in North Korea.

Dubbed as “The Hermit Kingdom” for its reclusive policy, life in North Korea, is rarely seen in the public eye. Few have access to the country, let alone have any interactions with North Koreans, inside or outside of the country.

To many of the tourists having a meal at the Pyongyang restaurant, the experience of dining among North Koreans is a novelty. The reclusive country is frequently accused of serious human rights abuses. But in the Pyongyang restaurant, the country is going to great lengths to have foreigners see a different side of North Korea.

A customer from Seoul, who only wants to be known as Mr Lee, says this is his first time in a North Korean restaurant. He is surprised by the impeccable service and the waitresses entertaining performances.  Mr. Lee said,“this is definitely an interesting experience for me, especially since I have read about the North Korean regime and it is so different in here from what I have previously read about."

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More