Pyongyang Restaurant, located on the first floor of a hotel in Maizidian Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, has an unremarkable appearance and decoration, but among certain circles it’s quite famous. An insider told our reporter that the restaurant has an official background; the waitresses at the restaurant are actually selected in Pyongyang and have little contact with the outside world. They are picked up by special buses that transport them to and from work, and live in North Korean complexes in Beijing.
However, the words of this insider are hard to verify because North Koreans working and living in China, no matter whether they are restaurant waitresses, overseas students or merchants, all strictly maintain a low-profile. They always live in their own circles, carrying with them the same mystery that surrounds their motherland.
On a recent noon, our reporter visited this restaurant. When he pushed open the door and came in, he saw a waitress in Korean ethnic clothing doing needlework.
"Are you doing business now?" Upon hearing his voice, she immediately laid down the needlework in her hand and rushed to open the glass door with a flower-like smile blooming on her face. After seating the reporter, she got into her role, introducing the specialties of the restaurant in not-so-fluent Chinese, "Xihai seafood is our specialty. You should try it."
Another waitress served a cup of tea politely, with prim and proper behavior. A line of waitresses, lightly made-up and looking fresh and pretty, stood at the door of the restaurant dressed in Korean clothes.
"You have a lovely name."
"Thanks. I come from Pyongyang. If you came to our restaurant in the evening, you can enjoy a performance. There are private boxes upstairs."
The waitresses all wore a leader’s badge as well as an identity card with their names on their chest. In the restaurant, the end directly opposite the door is filled by a smallish stage with a set of drums in the center, a large-screen TV made in China on the right, and a fresco detailing the "3,000 km land of splendors in North Korea" in the background.
During the course of dinner, a waitress patted the shoulder of the reporter, informing him that there would be performances in a moment. The reporter chatted about daily life with her, "Do you go shopping after work? Where do you like to go shopping?"
"Mmm, my Chinese is not good, and I cannot fully understand you," the waitress replied. The curiosity of the reporter drew the attention of a foreman-like waitress, who took the initiative to come over and ask "What can I do for you?"
After the reporter paid the bill he rose, the waitresses standing at the door immediately opened it, with the accompanying postures seeing a visitor out. When the reporter told them he wanted to do an interview, they identically shook their heads with smiles and the foreman-like waitress made a solemn face.
The waitresses avoided the curiosity of the reporter with smiles or, "I cannot understand". However, in another North Korean restaurant called Chinese Flowering Crabapple, the reporter had an extraordinary experience. The North Korean girls giving performances accepted the flowers from the reporter generously and enthusiastically took photos with the reporter for souvenirs.
The latter restaurant was more luxurious, with bright and soft light as well as soft and melodious music. The waitresses here dressed in more noble clothing and sported ponytails, red lips and white teeth.
After taking a seat, the reporter quickly tried to start a conversation with the waitress.
"Are your customers reduced because of the financial crisis?"
"The financial crisis? I’ve never heard of that. We are doing good business."
She didn’t wear a leader’s badge, which attracted the attention of the reporter.
"Why don’t you wear the leader’s badge?"
"I’m dressed in dirty work clothes; I can only wear that when I dress in clean and formal clothes."
When mentioning their own leaders, North Koreans would reveal certain reverence in their eyes.
"Can you sell me a Leader’s Badge?"
"Absolutely not! I’ll never sell it even you pay me 10000 RMB!"
Her eyes seemed to flash with an unpleasant gleam. An acquaintance returning to China from North Korea told the reporter that the leader’s badges in North Korea are individually numbered, so it cannot be sold.
This waitress still stood at a proper distance away, seemingly waiting for the reporter call. When the performance began, she urged the reporter to present flowers to the singer. The singer sung the song "Spicy Girls", and the reporter was surprised because her singing sounded some much like that of Song Zuying, the original singer of the song.
"Is she lip-synching?" asked the reporter. The waitress replied, "It is her singing."
Hearing the Chinese song caused the reporter to look around more carefully: he spied a Yamaha keyword being used for the performance, a BBQ oven made in South Koreaon the table, and closet filled with Chinese Qingdao and Yanjing beer.
Pyongyang Restaurant 北京平壤馆View In Map
Hours: 11am - 2pm; 5pm – 10pm
Tel: 010-65035732, 65035733
Add: Room 2001, Huakang Hotel, 78 Maizidian Jie, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Getting there: Take bus No. 419, 677, 682, 852, 985 to Zaoyang Beili Station.
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