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Is Kim Jong-Un Really Opening a Restaurant in Scotland?

Some UK publications are claiming that Kim Jong-Un is eyeing Scotland for the next location of his restaurant chain, which serves Korean dishes such as cuttlefish and pine-nut gruel.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, United States
January 12, 2015, 6:50pm

If the past few weeks of nonstop media onslaught about North Korea and The Interview just haven't quite appeased your insatiable appetite for Kim Jong-Un antics, fear not—there are other things (literally) cooking up his tunic sleeves.

Everyone's favorite guilty pleasure, the sometimes-reliable, sometimes-not UK rag The Daily Mail, reports that the dictator is eyeing Scotland as the location for his next business venture—an expansion of the restaurant chain known as Pyongyang, which is owned by the North Korean government and used to generate additional cash flow overseas. There are currently franchises in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lampur, Jakarta, and more recently, Amsterdam.

Although the proposed new location may seem a bit random, Scotland has allegedly been singled out for two reasons. The first is that Kim Jong-Un and other elite North Korean officials love drinking Scotch whisky. (His father, the late Kim Jong-Il, was a bigger fan of Hennessy, supposedly spending some £700,000 a year on the cognac.)

In September of this year when the United Kingdom debated whether or not Scotland should be granted sovereignty, Kim Jong-Un was allegedly a supporter of the country's independence because—as Choe Kwan-il, managing editor of North Korean paper Choson Sinbo, told UK's Daily Mirror—"North Korea is rich in natural resources and we like the taste of Scotch whisky, so [Scotland and North Korea] can be beneficial to each other."

In terms of the potential new addition to the Pyongyang chain, The Daily Mail claims that the other reason why North Korea might single out Scotland is that they want to make nice with some European countries in hopes of improving diplomacy and their global image. North Korean Leadership Watch editor Michael Madden tells the Mail that Kim Jong-Un has been trying to think of ways to buddy up with Scotland ever since its bid for sovereignty, and has more hope for acceptance there than in those other judgy European countries like England and France. Madden also claims that tourists in North Korea are already encouraged to pay tips in Scotch rather than won (the local currency).

Jenny Town of the US-Korea Institute is also quoted as arguing, "North Korea is going to support any country struggling for independence and legitimacy, as North Korea itself still continues to seek validation and recognition of its own legitimacy as a sovereign nation." In this case, that may mean trying to snuggle up with a Pyongyang franchise that will attempt to win over the Scots via dishes such as barbecued cuttlefish, kimchi, pine-nut gruel, dog meat soup, and a mysterious aphrodisiac made out of bears. (Although these foods are served at other Pyongyang restaurants, there is no specific evidence that they'd make their way onto menus in Scotland).

There has been no official announcement from North Korea confirming that they are opening a restaurant in Scotland—in fact, a Korean embassy official recently denied the story to The Independent. But as it is with many other wealth-generating businesses in North Korea, many critics believe that cash flow from the restaurant chain goes straight to Jong-Un himself and his small group of elites with virtually no trickle-down to the North Korean people.

Kim Jong-Un, 31, gained quite a bit of attention earlier this year for his diagnosis of gout, a disease commonly caused by overindulgence in rich, fatty foods. It was widely reported that he became ill and developed a limp and facial swelling because he had become literally addicted to Emmental, more commonly called "Swiss cheese."

No other details about the new restaurant have yet to be verified, so it's unclear whether tipping in whisky would be encouraged.