|▲ Waitresss in a restaurant dancing with guests ⓒ the Daily NK|
Having received permission from North Korean authorities, North Korean restaurants that are operating in China or in Southeast Asia are making fixed payments of $10,000 to 30,000 to North Korea.
The portion of payments made to North Korea by North Korean restaurants operating in China or Southeast Asia is a known reality, but this is the first time that the amount that these restaurants made to North Korea became known.
Kim Myung Ho (pseudonym, 59), who has experience running a North Korean restaurant in China under the auspices of a North Korean foreign currency-making activity organization, met our reporter in an unnamed quarter of Dandong in China on the 13th. He said, “Under the influence of each ministry in the administration or a money-making business, North Korea is trying to competitively establish restaurants abroad.”
According to Mr. Kim, the amount remitted by the restaurants is decided according to the number of waitresses and employees.
He said, “The amount sent back to the North is $10,000 if the number of employees is less than or equal to 15, but if it exceeds 20, then the amount of remittance is $20,000, and over that, the amount is capped at $30,000.”
Mr. Kim said, “Every year, the sum total is counted at the business headquarters in Pyongyang, but if there’s even a small default or lack of results, then the threat of evacuation is given.”
Currently, there are over a hundred odd restaurants which are known in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In the case that $10,000~30,000 is sent to North Korea every year, it can be calculated that North Korea is earning approximately several tens of thousands of dollars through overseas restaurant operations alone.
Mr. Kim revealed, “North Korean restaurants are receiving the limelight as main foreign currency-making activity businesses. Because they are pursuing business competitively, they have had to shut down operations one after the other due to the inability to manage internal affairs, such as employees breaking away.”
The shutdown of two North Korean restaurants, named “Pyongyang Moran Restaurant” and “Pyongyang Restaurant,” for several months due to the running away of waitresses was a confirmed fact of Daily NK's investigations.
Presently, there are special trade companies who try to achieve the foreign-currency making activity plans issued by each ministry of the North Korean government. Most of North Korean restaurants that are operating overseas right now are associated with these trade companies.
|▲ Waitresses performing in Korean traditional dress and epecial dress ⓒ the Daily NK|
Mr. Kim said, “Foreign currency collected in these ways is used as operating capital of superior offices Party and as a portion of the Party. Anything besides this, higher than that, is hard to say.”
The reason for the expensive price of food at North Korean restaurants is due to these remittance amounts. They exceed the price of food at surrounding restaurants by three times. In Dandung City, nangmyeon (Korean buckwheat noodle), which can be obtained for 6 Yuan at a high-class Chinese restaurant, is two times pricier at 10~15 Yuan at North Korean restaurants.
The price is expensive, but what makes these restaurants popular, which cannot be found at no other restaurant, is the performances accompanied by song and dance of North Korean waitresses. Performers are usually 20~25 young women who draw customers by singing North Korean songs and even Chinese songs.
Mr. Wang, a Chinese patron seeking a North Korean restaurant in the evening of the 14th, confessed, “I like the fact that I don’t have to seek out a karaoke, because I can sing and dance with the ladies of Pyongyang.”
Further, he expressed contentment that “I can receive high-class service which is difficult to receive at a Chinese restaurant, so it is good for entertaining business partners.” North Korean restaurants are drawing popularity by its unique business method of simultaneously providing food and amusement. Recently, they have tried to actively rouse regular customers by not only providing performances, but dancing with the customers.
A person of Korean-Chinese descent, who is pursuing North Korea-Chinese trade in Dandung, expressed, “It’s disappointing to see the sight of restaurants multiplying when trade is not sanctioned normally due to the lack of foreign currency. Businesses are operating with food and entertainment due to a lack of good income sources; in Dandung alone, there are over 10 restaurants.”