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North Korean Restaurants Finding Hard to Draw Diners In

These restaurants are common all over East and Southeast Asia and were established to earn foreign cash for the North Korean regime

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“We don’t get paid, and we must work from 11 in the morning to midnight,” said the waitress. “We get dispatched overseas during our sophomore year, and the training period is three years.” Pixabay

North Korean-themed restaurants in Cambodia are struggling with financial difficulties due to UN sanctions and a dwindling customer base.

These restaurants are common all over East and Southeast Asia and were established to earn foreign cash for the North Korean regime.

They have been go-to destinations for dining in entertainment in places as far flung as Vladivostok and Shanghai. The main attraction is not necessarily the food; diners used to pack these establishments to catch a glimpse of the young dancing waitresses in colorful Korean dress.

Across the entire region, however, North Korean restaurants that once enjoyed a boom are now finding it hard to draw diners in. Many say that UN sanctions are to blame for the lack of customers.

Although a recent thawing in inter-Korean relations lifted restrictions on South Koreans visiting these restaurants, in the case of Cambodia, this has not helped to reverse the restaurants’ fortunes.

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Empty dining hall during lunch hour at Pyongyang Unhasu Restaurant in Phnom Penh on Feb. 10, 2019. RFA

“North Korean restaurants used to make money hand over fist here, until the UN started enforcing the sanctions against North Korea,” said a Korean expat from Phnom Penh.

“Most of them have closed down since then and some of [those still open] are experiencing business difficulties,” the resident said, adding, “It is because South Korean tourists and local South Koreans stopped coming in since the UN enforced sanctions.”

The sanctions, aimed at depriving North Korea of $500 million per year that could be funneled into its nuclear program, have caused companies in both the private and public sectors to shy away from any kind of association with North Korea, as they fear being blacklisted themselves.

One set of sanctions is specifically designed to curb North Korea’s practice of sending workers overseas to earn hard currency for the government in a system that leaves the workers with only a fraction of their actual earnings.

The Phnom Penh resident said three North Korean restaurants were still active in Phnom Penh.

“There’s the Pyongyang Naengmyon [Cold Buckwheat Noodle] restaurant, Pyongyang Unhasu [Galaxy] restaurant, and the Pyongyang Arirang restaurant,” said the resident.

The resident said that on typical days these restaurants can expect to draw about 10 customers after 7pm, but since performances only happen at night, there are no customers at lunchtime.

“I’ve heard that [South Korea] lifted restrictions against South Korean tourists coming to these restaurants as the North-South relationship has gotten better. I don’t know why, but South Korean tourists don’t [seem to want to] visit,” the resident said.

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“North Korean restaurants used to make money hand over fist here, until the UN started enforcing the sanctions against North Korea,” said a Korean expat from Phnom Penh. Pixabay

The source added that in recent years the lack of business has forced some of the restaurants to diversify.

“They’re now opening up new cafes that sell alcohol, coffee, tea, noodles, and dumplings, doing their best to [try to] attract customers,” the source said.

“Business is so slow that they can’t even pay the waitresses,” the source said, adding: “[they] wait all day at the door for customers to come in, never stopping for breaks. It’s just pitiful.”

Stolen Youth

A waitress at one of the Phnom Penh restaurants explained that she and every other North Korean waitress in Cambodia are students from Pyongyang University of Commerce. She said they were sent out of North Korea to go through a period of “unpaid training.”

“We don’t get paid, and we must work from 11 in the morning to midnight,” said the waitress. “We get dispatched overseas during our sophomore year, and the training period is three years.”

“College is supposed to last four years, but because we all have to do overseas training, nobody graduates in four years,” the waitress said.

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“I miss my parents in Pyongyang. I am so far away from them in Cambodia and I can’t even call them whenever I want,” she said. Pixabay

The waitress explained that even if they do return eventually, once they graduate finding any job related to their majors is difficult.

“Even though I majored in services, that doesn’t mean I get to do anything related to that when I get dispatched [for training.] I can only find that out when I get there,” she said.

ALSO READ: Chinese Hacking Group Targets US Universities in Search of Military Secrets: Reports

“I miss my parents in Pyongyang. I am so far away from them in Cambodia and I can’t even call them whenever I want,” she said.

“I’ve been working in Cambodia for years and I feel most sorry for myself because I won’t have a chance to date someone. (RFA)

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North Korea Slams Joe Biden as “Imbecile” and “Fool of Low IQ”

North Korean media often lash out at world leaders who criticize members of the ruling Kim family

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Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a rally, May 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. VOA

North Korean state media slammed Joe Biden as an “imbecile” and a “fool of low IQ” Wednesday, Pyongyang’s first substantial comments on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The commentary in the state-run Korean Central News Agency criticized Biden for recently referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a thug and a tyrant.

“[Biden] reeled off rhetoric slandering the supreme leadership of the DPRK,” KCNA said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name. “What he uttered is just sophism of an imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being, let alone a politician.”

The statement does not represent a formal endorsement of Trump; North Korean media often lash out at world leaders who criticize members of the ruling Kim family. “What is interesting this time is that the North Koreans may be attacking who they figure is Trump’s main domestic rival to curry favor with the president,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Polls indicate Biden leading his Democratic rivals, as well as Trump, in the 2020 race. The former vice president often criticizes Trump’s diplomatic outreach to authoritarian leaders. He recently slammed Kim as a thug.

“He’s the same guy (who had) his uncle’s brains blown out sitting across a desk,” Biden said earlier this month, referring to Kim’s 2013 execution of his uncle and mentor, Jang Song-thaek. The un-bylined KCNA editorial did not mention Trump. But it did appear to give a nod to Trump’s newly rolled out nickname for Biden: “Sleepy Joe.”

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden arrives for a campaign rally at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, May 18, 2019. VOA

​”In April 2011 when the then President [Barack] Obama was in the middle of making a speech, [Biden] was fast asleep in the auditorium,” the commentary said, adding Biden became a “laughing-stock of the media.”

Trump, who is 72 years old, has attempted to portray Biden, who is 76, as not having enough energy to become president. KCNA also hit at Biden’s reputation for making verbal gaffes. “Yet, he is self-praising himself as being the most popular presidential candidate,” the editorial said. “This is enough to make a cat laugh.”

It isn’t the first time North Korean media have weighed in during a Trump presidential run. In 2016, an editorial in the DPRK Today, a China-based North Korean mouthpiece, called Trump “wise” and “far-sighted,” while slamming his opponent Hillary Clinton as “dull.”

Even though North Korea has recently taken a more aggressive stance toward the United States, state media have been careful not to criticize Trump. One North Korean official said Kim’s relationship with Trump remains “mysteriously wonderful,” even though nuclear talks have broken down.

Instead, North Korean state media have slammed other U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

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North Korean state media slammed Joe Biden as an “imbecile” and a “fool of low IQ” Wednesday, Pyongyang’s first substantial comments on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Wikimedia Commons

“Whether the person is Democrat or Republican, North Korean media will always react against someone who insults their leader,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. “And unless Trump calls Kim a dictator or says something harsh, North Korea will not directly criticize the president.”

Soo Kim, a North Korea watcher and former CIA analyst, agrees that Pyongyang doesn’t typically endorse U.S. presidential candidates. But Pyongyang clearly wants Trump to remain in office so that negotiations can continue, she said.

ALSO READ: China Damages Ozone Layer Using Globally Banned Chemical, Say Scientists

Nuclear talks broke down following a Trump-Kim summit in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The two leaders were unable to agree on how to match the pace of sanctions relief with steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has said he will give the United States until the end of the year to change its approach, and has begun testing ballistic missiles for the first time in a year and a half. Trump has shrugged off Kim’s deadline and the missile launches, saying he is in no hurry for a deal. (VOA)