It has been belatedly revealed that since the start of the 2000s, young women working in North Korean restaurants both in Pyongyang and abroad have been required to have double eyelid surgery.
A source with a long history of visits to Pyongyang explained to The Daily NK yesterday, “When I was in Pyongyang last year, I heard from someone related to the North that since the start of the 2000s all waitresses had double eyelid surgery on Kim Jong Il’s instructions,” and added, “It seems that Kim Jong Il places great importance on the appearance of workers in restaurants earning foreign currency.”
According to the source, the target of Kim Jong Il’s requirements includes workers at restaurants within Pyongyang fraternized by foreigners, including Korean and international restaurants in the Yanggakdo and Koryo Hotels, coffee shops and other shops.
But it also includes those sent to work in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Yanji), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), the Middle East (Dubai), Nepal, the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Kaesong.
The reason why Kim Jong Il made the decision is supposedly connected with restaurant sales; the waitresses at such establishments are not merely waitresses, for they must also be talented singers and dancers, too.
According to the source, “They are mostly young university students born in Pyongyang, and I heard they get the surgery in hospital in Pyongyang for $17.”
North Korea pushed into the foreign restaurant market at first in the 1990s in an attempt to boost hard currency earnings. Now, with foreign currency earning businesses under both Party and military organs operating in the market, there are more than 100 North Korean restaurants worldwide.
According to the scale of the restaurant and number of waitresses, each is expected to earn a certain amount of foreign currency per year, and while getting a job in one of the restaurants naturally relies heavily on family and educational background, the waitresses are still watched more carefully by the authorities than ordinary North Korean citizens.