The Weird Way North Korea Is Getting Hard Cash From All Over The World

Despite what their propaganda might say, being financially isolated is quite difficult and the Hermit Kingdom called North Korea is no exception. Since the collapse of USSR in 1991 which was the country’s main support, North Korea has little trade agreements with the outside world (its main trading partner is China).

This has not stopped the government from finding alternative ways to get cash into the country. One of the most clever (and unusual) ones, is the restaurant business.

Koren food has risen in popularity and to take advantage of the fact, Pyongyang opened more than 100 state-run restaurants all over the world. Here’s an overview of how they work. (the article continues after the ad)

Branded mostly under the Pyongyang restaurant chain (even though there are other brands as well), these restaurants existed in China for decades but now you can find one in distant places such as Dubai or Amsterdam.

They are part of ‘Room 39’, a secretive special division of the Korean Workers Party that aims in generating cash. Even though restaurants are not as profitable as other alleged activities of Room 39, such as counterfeiting and drug smuggling, they are an important cog in the machine.

Food-wise, the restaurants offer North Korean food: cold noodles, dishes with kimchi (which is much spicier than that of South Korea), even North Korean liquor can be found but is quite expensive.

Photo: VICE

The servers are traditionally dressed and they are also entertainers, playing instruments, dancing and singing North Korean songs to diners. Yes, it’s propaganda at its best, but people don’t seem to bothered and appreciate the kitsch-side of it.

Don’t believe us? Have a look:

By the way, according to Daily NK, the waitress are often from elite Pyongyang families and their patriotism is key. They have a multi-year contract and their contact with people outside the community is minimum.

So how much money do they send back to North Korea?

Reports from Chinese newspaper Chosun, estimate that each restaurant sends back to the country as much as $ 300,000 a year. It may not sound a lot, but for a country such as North Korea which is isolated by sanctions, owning 100 restaurants abroad that yearly generate $ 30,000,000 is quite a thing.

There have been some staff defections to South Korea over the years but overall, state-run restaurants are a successful business that gives North Korea the foreign currency that so desperately needs.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: This Is North Korea’s Brutal “Three Generation Punishment” 

Photo: The White House@nikz / Twitter
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: The weird world of North Korea’s restaurants abroad | N.Korean Restaurants Abroad Feel the Pinch | An Inside Look at North Korea’s Super Weird Government-Run Restaurants | Dining With Dear Leader

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