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

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid