MALAYSIA’s only North Korean restaurant has closed just two months after the assassination of dictator Kim Jong Un’s brother at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.
Koryo Pyongyang restaurant in inner-city Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s only one of more than 100 regime-owned North Korean restaurants worldwide – reportedly closed allegedly as the result of declining clientele and revenue.
“The restaurant, the only one the North has been operating in Malaysia, recently went out of business, and the North seemed to have withdrawn its workers,” an anonymous source told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother brother of North Korea’s supreme leader was murdered by two women as he attempted to leave Malaysia in February, causing a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
Around 1,000 North Koreans live in Malaysia, but Koryo Pyongyang instead catered to curious foreigners, charging high prices to collect much-needed revenue for the impoverished hermit state.
“You’ll be amazed by the variety of cold noodles, gruel and rice dishes,” says the restaurant’s Facebook page. “We make it feel as Korean as possible.” The page provides a link to Koryo.my, which is now inactive.
Spies from North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) have reportedly operated extensively in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for decades. In addition to restaurants, the regime has business interests in construction and textile manufacturing in Southeast Asia.
There are outlets like Koryo Pyongyang in Southeast Asian capitals such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh and Vientiane. Indonesian authorities announced in February they would be investigating allegations of espionage at its capital’s North Korean restaurant.
A source recently told Malaysia’s The Star newspaper, “They used the restaurants as a main front to conduct intelligence gathering and surveillance, targeting Japanese and South Korean politicians, diplomats, top corporate figures and businessmen who visited or were based in these countries.”
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North Korean nationals living abroad must report to the nearest embassy each month for a debrief and upon re-entering their homeland undergo “re-education,” reported the AFP.
Regional security analyst Anthony Davis recently said, “Given North Korean citizens can enter Malaysia without a visa, North Korean intelligence agents have been more active in Malaysia than in any other country in Southeast Asia. It has become a sort of regional hub.”
Many of those who had visited Karyo report on Tripadvisor report tasty food, excellent service and “beautiful” multilingual waitresses – except at a hefty price tag.
One punter from Vietnam reported:
“From the moment you step into the restaurant you will be greeted by two North Korean beauties and then escorted to your room or the main hall for your dining.”
“The waitress during midway will dance and sing love songs to serenade your evening.”
In Malaysia, no more.
**This article first appeared on Asian Correspondent