North Korean restaurants in China face imminent closure

North Korean restaurants operating in China and in other countries are seen as a key source of foreign currency revenue for the regime of leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean restaurants operating in China and in other countries are seen as a key source of foreign currency revenue for the regime of leader Kim Jong Un.PHOTO: AFP

SHENYANG - With the Jan 9 deadline imposed by Beijing in accordance with United Nations sanctions looming, a large number of North Korean restaurants operating in China are expected to close soon, sources in China told Yonhap news agency on Saturday (Jan 6).

After the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a sanctions resolution on Sept 12, 2017 in response to North Korea's sixth nuclear test, Beijing ordered the closure of all North Korean businesses, including restaurants, on Chinese soil within 120 days.

About 100 North Korean restaurants are operating across China, though the exact number is not known. These restaurants, in China and other countries, are seen as a key source of foreign currency revenue for the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A source in the Chinese-North Korean border area told Yonhap: "The presence of North Korean restaurants has been particularly heavy in three north-eastern Chinese provinces - Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang. In the face of Beijing's hardline stance, many of them are likely to go out of business. Pressure is also rising against the extension of visas for North Korean workers."

"Late last year, the municipality of Shenyang in Liaoning province was known to have asked North Korean restaurants in the city's 'Korean Town' area to close in 50 days. The restaurants will likely shut down if its employees fail to renew their visas," the source added.

Another source told Yonhap that despite the closure order, North Korean restaurants appear to be searching for ways to survive.

"North Korean restaurants are mulling over various survival methods. In most cases, they may attempt to change the registered ownership to Chinese or ethnic Koreans, while taking advantage of workers with longer visa duration," the source said.

In fact, many North Korean restaurants in Chinese cities have already changed their ownership structures to joint ventures with Chinese partners, according to Yonhap.

"In the first week of the new year, North Korean restaurants were seen brightly lit and accepting customers until late at night. It remains to be seen whether they will actually go out of business," said a Korean resident in Shenyang.