Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dining with the Dear Leader

One rainy evening in August, we visited North Korea.   Well, as close to North Korea as we probably were ever going to get.  We were having dinner at Pyongyang Restaurant, one of a chain of restaurants throughout Asia owned by the North Korean government as a money-making venture and also, some say, as a way to launder money from their other, more unsavory businesses.

We swung open the heavy glass door expecting the full onslaught of North Korean propaganda – brightly-colored posters plastered with the smiling countenance of Kim Jung-Il, surrounded by happy children and bountiful rice harvests.  Instead, we were ushered into a brightly (even harshly) lit, medium-sized room with brown tile floors and glass-topped tables.  Artwork ranged from posters of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper to drawings of traditional North Korean dresses.  Dingy curtains blocked the view from the parking lot outside, and on the other wall fake vines and flowers were strung up decoratively.  An enormous photograph of waves crashing on a beach dominated one wall.  Our waitress, pretty and demurely dressed in a black skirt suit, handed us thick menus and poured out lukewarm tea.
The decor
The restaurant was only half full.  Two large tables of Asian men were enjoying a banquet-style meal and endless bottles of Beer Lao.  Two western tourists talked quietly in the other corner.  We ate our kimchi pancakes (delicious), bbq beef (incredibly tough) and Pyongyang bimbimbop (ok) while muzak played softly in the background.
BBQ Beef with the brightest
wasabi I've ever seen
Kimchi pancakes not pictured because we scarfed them.
And then, all of a sudden, flat screen TVs were switched on, microphones were revealed, and the waitresses launched into a rehearsed, choreographed Korean ballad karaoke session, complete with background music videos, harmonizing, and Whitney-Houston-in-The-Bodyguard arm movements.
I still can't understand why the middle waitress decided to stand directly behind a mirrored pillar
The other tourists didn't hesitate to get up close and personal for some photographs
And here's what you've obviously been waiting for: a taste of the evening entertainment!

When the show was over, we paid our bill, posed with the talent and left wondering what life could be like for these women, living in the Laos but still clearly under the thumb of the Dear Leader.
Look ma, I'm in North Korea!

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad that you enjoyed your visit to North Korea from afar!


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