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 Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid