North Korea is better known for famines than cuisine, but that hasn’t stopped Kim Jong Il from recently expanding his international chain of restaurants. While an Okryu Gwan restaurant has been open in China for years, the food empire now has locations in Nepal, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, with another planned for curious Westerners in Amsterdam. “Everyone knows that it is run by the North Korean government,” the manager of the Dubai location told the National, a U.A.E.-based daily, proudly adding that the cold noodles and pickled cabbage come direct from North Korea. Although the food is similar to that of any Korean restaurant, the “saccharine keyboard music” is distinctly northern. There’s also traditional fan dancing and karaoke each night.
But not everyone is having fun. Despite selecting seemingly loyal North Korean workers, the chain has suffered some defections. A worker from the Nepal location slipped out of the country and re-emerged in Seoul. And a manager from the Chinese location reportedly dined and dashed, eventually ending up in South Korea, after he was pressured to send $30,000 a year in remittances to the Dear Leader.