HANOI, Jan. 16 (Korea Bizwire) — Despite pressure from the international community, North Korean restaurants in Cambodia are reportedly thriving, thanks to Chinese customers.
Unlike China and other Southeast Asian countries where a growing number of North Korean restaurants are being closed, for those in Cambodia it’s business as usual.
According to the Phnom Penh office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) on Monday, the continued success of North Korean restaurants in Cambodia is thanks to the growing number of Chinese workers and investors in the country who have become their main customers.
With increasing investment by China in Cambodia, Chinese resident workers have replaced South Korean tourists and residents as the main customers of the North Korean restaurants.
Since December 2003 when Pyeongyang Raengmyon Gwan first opened, a number of North Korean restaurants have come and gone, with only five of them remaining as of 2015.
However, despite the sanctions imposed on North Korea’s sources of income, at the few restaurants that have managed to survive the international community’s pressure including Pyeongyang Arirang, Pyeongyang Raengmyon Gwan, and Pyongyang Unhasu Restaurant, nothing appears to be amiss.
“North Korean restaurant workers say that while the number of Cambodian and South Korean customers has decreased, Chinese customers now account for 70 to 80 percent of the total. Performances are now designed to cater to Chinese customers, along with the dishes and drinks that are being served,” a trade official based in Phnom Penh said.
“Around 10 new workers have been dispatched to North Korean restaurants. Compared to the past when four to five new workers were sent, [staffing levels] have grown significantly,” the official added.
As China increases investment in Cambodia, one of the most pro-Chinese countries in Southeast Asia, North Korean restaurants appear to have become an unlikely beneficiary.
Cambodia has been seen strengthening its relations with China in the run up to the general election in July, following criticism from the U.S. and EU against the central government over suppression of the main opposition party.
Over the last couple of months, UN resolutions on North Korea saw an increasing number of North Korean businesses close down in Asia including Koryo Restaurant, a North Korean restaurant in the Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh, which closed last September.
Ashley Song (email@example.com)