North Korean restaurants in China that had been shut down as a consequence of COVID-19 are now being reopened, Daily NK has learned.
Daily NK sources in China have reported that with the spread of COVID-19 showing signs of slowing down in China, North Korean authorities have issued an order to its overseas laborers to return to work.
“On Mar. 19, the North Korean authorities ordered restaurants to open up again,” one China-based source told Daily NK on Mar. 26. “They also said that the workers no longer had to self-quarantine.”
Several restaurants have now reopened and others are preparing to do the same, he added.
The only restaurant currently open in Dandong is called Koryogwan, while the Pyongyang Koryo, the Ryu Gyong, Moran, and Songdowon restaurants are still preparing to open, Daily NK sources confirmed.
Another establishment, Pyongyanggwan, recently launched a delivery service and sources expect that seated dining will be available in the near future.
A Chinese-owned North Korean restaurant in Yanji, Jilin Province, called “Soon Yi Cold Noodles,” has reopened and its North Korean staff have started working again.
“We received orders to open up our restaurant on Mar. 20 and the order was widely circulated a day later during a meeting of restaurant managers,” one North Korean restaurant worker in Jilin Province told Daily NK.
“Restaurants haven’t opened up immediately because of the need to completely sterilize them and test workers for potential COVID-19 infections,” she continued, adding, “Restaurant workers have been confined to their residences for over a month and are glad to get back to work.”
North Korean restaurants that have reopened in China still remain largely empty of customers, sources told Daily NK.
“The doors have opened, but we don’t have as many patrons as before,” another North Korean restaurant worker in Jilin Province told Daily NK. “And even when we do get patrons, they have to be verified with a QR code and have their temperatures taken. It’s a complicated process, and I think that keeps the diners away.”
LOOSENING THE RULES
During criticism sessions held among workers at restaurants that have opened, North Korean party officials have stressed that workers need to “remain thrifty” in a time of “national difficulty” and that they must continue to contribute to the regime’s “loyalty fund” and maintain their personal hygiene.
Interestingly, North Korean officials have reportedly allowed restaurant workers to devote less time to submitting daily reports and focus more on foreign currency-earning activities.
Under normal circumstances, North Korean restaurant workers had to submit reports on suspicious patrons and other “incidents” that occurred in their restaurants by 5 PM each day.
Now, the workers can submit these daily reports by 10 PM, which is when they get off work.
One rule, however, remains unchanged: if a restaurant worker suspects that a fellow worker might attempt to defect, or if they observe any other suspicious behavior, they must report it immediately to a security official.
The end of the quarantine for overseas North Korean workers has also meant that factory workers at factories in Dandong, Liaoning Province and in Tumen, Hunchun and Kaishantunzhen in Jilin Province have been able to start working again, Daily NK sources confirmed.
Marine product processing factories in Hunchun, however, are still reportedly closed because the closure of nearby national borders with Russia and North Korea have prevented marine products from entering China.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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