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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid