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North Korea Can't Seem to Stop Its Restaurant Employees from Running Away

After a mass defection in April of 13 North Korean restaurant workers, three more just slipped away in China this week.
Foto von uritours via Flickr

The workers at North Korea's government-run restaurants are putting the Vanderpump Rules crowd to shame, at least as far as waitstaff-based drama goes. Employees at some of the 130 restaurants owned and operated by North Korea keep defecting. After a mass defection in April of 13 North Korean restaurant workers, three more just slipped away in China this week. It seems Kim Jong-Un doesn't have the firm grip on his waiters and managers that one might expect of a supreme commander. Someone like Lisa Vanderpump, that is.


North Korea's restaurants are spread over 12 countries and provide around $10 million in revenues for the government back in North Korea. Known as Pyongyang, the chain is run by the Haedanghwa Group, which is said to be operated by government-connected elites, including Kim Jong-Un's sister. Many of the restaurants are found in China, but other outposts are located in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and even Amsterdam. The restaurants are a favorite among South Korean tourists who enjoy the kitschy musical performances and rare glimpses of North Koreans that the venues provide. On the menu is spicy kimchi, cold noodles encrusted with ice, and dangogi soup.

READ MORE: Why North Korea's Restaurant Business Is Bombing

Did we mention that dangogi soup is made of dog?

In any event, the restaurants were quite popular until North Korean tested nuclear long-range rockets this year. After that, the South Korean government asked its citizens to boycott the restaurants. Some have since closed, causing the baby-faced dictator of North Korea to learn, perhaps, that restaurants aren't the easy-to-run cash cows they may seem to be.

But restaurant closures are only one of the government's worries. The latest problem is that workers seem to be enjoying their taste of life outside North Korea a little too much. In fact, they like it so much, they want to stay.

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Unless you believe North Korea's allegation that the workers are being abducted by South Korea.

North Korea has called the workers' departure a "hideous abduction" by its enemy state. China, however, the country where the most recent defectors worked, said the workers left the country legally using their passports. The workers are believed to be headed for South Korea and, according to South Korea's Munhwa Ilbo newspaper, were in Thailand this week.

Tensions are rising between North and South Korea, which have been in a technical state of war since the early 1950s. And, it's pretty clear that breaking bread together has only complicated the problem.

Here's a bit of advice for Kim Jong-Un: Base a reality television show on your foreign restaurants. After all, there's really nothing like the promise of a spin-off to keep your waitstaff loyal.