Monday, January 23, 2012

Pyongyang Cambodia

The meal can run up to $100 dollars and the dances elaborate, but if you want a taste of North Korea you might have to go to Cambodia to get it. That is what some South Korean tourists have been doing when they visit the country. In the video and article you get a sense of people getting into the back secret room of some high-society club and seeing something only the privileged would dream of. However, these people stepped off a tourist bus.
The point of this restaurant, as it has been stated, is to bring in revenue for the North Korean country. This is being done by a pricey menu with attractive dancing. 

North Korean performers, dressed in hanbok, a billowing, traditional Korean dress, wear permanent smiles as they play a Western-style drum set, electric guitars and accordion — and demurely shuffle across the stage.
Even the waitresses (who also double as performers) are from North Korea. So in that sense you are getting the real-deal. But one wonders what this experience must be like for these people, as they evidently see what the rest of the world is like. Yet, inside the restaurant it is more about "business-as-usual" and the politics are left outside.

What one most can take from this is the unsettling reminder that the people of North Korea are still starving while tourists in Cambodia at the Pyongyang restaurant are happily filling their stomachs.

A meal at a Pyongyang restaurant is one of the more expensive in town. In a country where a bowl of noodles costs $1.50, a hungry customer can easily pay $100 for a simple meal of kimchi, beef shoulder, stir-fried squid and a bottle of wine. 
However, I feel this is a unique cultural artifact to be found in the world during these times, and perhaps beneficial to go and take a look. If you were visiting Cambodia, would you head to this restaurant?

One odd part of the article is when a South Korean visitor is quoted as saying, “Back in South Korea, we don’t have any opportunities to meet North Korean people.” 

None at all?! I know folks who tutor North Koreans in English and others who have taken them out to dinner. I'm pretty sure there are opportunities.

Anyways, an interesting article and something to think about as North Korea keeps on tinkering with itself.

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