As I noted on Wednesday, North Korea currently has some 50,00 to 60,000 overseas workers, earning much-needed foreign cash for the Kim dynasty. North Korean restaurants abroad have been offering their unique combination of dog-meat casserole plus exotic cabaret from a selection of leggy lovelies for a while now, but there have been reports recently that these restaurants have been struggling, since sanctions tightened:
An important source of foreign currency for the state, North Korean-run eateries can be found in the same locations around the world to which it dispatches laborers for construction, logging, etc. But China by and large boasts the largest number of these operations, with arms in Beijing and other major cities, as well as the three Northeastern provinces; Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning.
The customers of these North Korean restaurants in China, on the other hand, are largely South Korean tourists, the bulk of whom have been heeding their government's recent request to avoid the establishments, citing the political climate. Chinese entrepreneurs trading with North Korea, too, have been exhibiting reluctance to meet face-to-face. If this presses on, the source speculated, "It may only be a matter of time before these restaurants are forced to shut down."
Thirteen North Korean restaurant workers participated in what South Korea called an unprecedented mass defection this week, attributing the incident to recently tightened UN sanctions.
The workers – 12 women and one man who managed the government-controlled restaurant in an unnamed third country – sought political asylum in South Korea on Thursday.
They were admitted on humanitarian grounds, Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles North Korean issues, told reporters. “There was a shared wish to go to South Korea and nobody was resistant to that,” one of the group told authorities, Jeong said.
Jeong said harsher sanctions introduced last month following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in early January appeared to have prompted the defections. “As the international community has slapped sanctions on the North, North Korean restaurants in foreign countries are known to be feeling the pinch,” he told journalists, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. “North Koreans in overseas restaurants are believed to be under heavy pressure to send money to their country.”
Jeong also claimed the group had tired of Pyongyang’s ideological campaigns and had become disillusioned with their home country after watching South Korean television dramas and films.
This is particularly significant, as Joshua Stanton notes, because restaurant workers are generally hand-picked, core-class regime loyalists. If even the elite classes are defecting - and are citing their disillusionment with Pyongyang's increasingly hysterical propaganda as a key factor - then the Fat Controller's ghastly dystopia would seem to be getting less stable by the day.