The recent defections of 13 employees of an overseas North Korean-operated restaurant are the first by multiple workers at one restaurant, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. A look at North Korea’s foreign restaurants:
North Korea runs about 130 restaurants overseas that generate more than $100 million in vital foreign currency annually, according to South Korean intelligence estimates. Most are in China, but others are in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Their income comes in part from the menu featuring $20 sushi platters, $10 dog meat stews and steaks priced by weight. But the workers also aggressively push domestic products like Daedongjiang beer ($6 a bottle), Daedongjiang cigarettes ($5 a pack), and collectible stamp books ($100 each).
In years past the restaurants were a popular stop for South Korean travelers seeking a glimpse into their isolated neighbor, along with homesick North Koreans, elderly Chinese and curious outsiders. But economic sanctions imposed on North Korea in response to its recent nuclear and rocket tests have had an impact: A Beijing restaurant visited recently served a table of North Korean guests, one of elderly Chinese and two seating South Koreans, but otherwise the eatery and others in Asia were largely deserted.