North Korean waitresses in China are forced to work without a mask – Radio Free Asia

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A North Korean restaurant in China is forcing female staff to work without masks, even amid reports that the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus is spreading across the world, Chinese sources told RFA.

North Korean restaurants are used by Pyongyang as a major source of foreign exchange. The main attraction is often not the food, but the young women of Pyongyang who serve it and who also dance and play musical instruments to entertain customers.

The women are generally students with artistic training from the North Korean capital. They are sent abroad for at least a year while the lion’s share of their pay goes to their government.

In the Chinese city of Dandong, on the border with North Korea, there are about twenty of these restaurants. Waitresses / entertainers employed at least one of them must perform bare-faced because managers believe the masks would hide their beauty, a Chinese citizen of Korean descent told RFA’s Korean service on November 29.

“Today I went to Pyongyang Specialties restaurant in downtown Dandong with my friend and was surprised to see the ladies dancing and playing musical instruments for customers and collecting tips from them and they weren’t wearing masks, “said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

“The people of Dandong are nervous that the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus, which has been discovered in South Africa, is spreading these days. I am concerned that the ladies in Pyongyang who have been playing all day without masks may be infected, ”the source said.

Pyongyang Specialties employs around 40 people, including 20 young performers.

The source said he was alarmed by maskless women working so closely with customers, so he asked a close friend of the restaurant manager for an explanation.

“My friend said the manager ordered them to take off their masks as they had to show their face fully to attract customers,” the source said.

Outdoor signage for Pyongyang Specialty Restaurant. Credit: RFA

The manager is an official from Pyongyang, and he sends monthly profits to the North Korean government. Pyongyang Specialties was a popular place in Dandong before it closed in February 2020 due to the pandemic. Although it reopened in March this year, only a fraction of its customers returned. Managers are doing whatever they can to attract them, the source said.

“They have single rooms and multi-person rooms, and guests can sit according to their requests. Then they can order food and private shows, ”the source said.

“If you order a private performance, which is expensive, the ladies from Pyongyang will come into your room and dance or play musical instruments,” the source said.

Customers can expect to pay 100 yuan (US $ 15.71) per song, whether the waitress dances or plays an instrument, another Dandong-born Korean, who visited Pyongyang Specialties the day before, told RFA. .

“We were in a room for two and ordered a solo dance and a solo recital with our food. The ladies danced in our room without masks until the end of the meal, “said the second source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“Pyongyang Specialties isn’t the only restaurant in Dandong that offers shows by female waiters. They also have it every night at Pyongyang Koryo Restaurant and Ryugyong Restaurant, and they also don’t wear masks in front of customers, so I’m afraid they might get infected, ”the second source said.

The source said he was angry that the North Korean government apparently did not care about the health of young women.

“The North Korean authorities are sucking up all the foreign currency earned by these women, who are forced to perform without a mask as this new variant of Omicron spreads around the world,” the source said.

Following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2397 in December 2017, all North Korean workers abroad were expected to have been repatriated by the end of 2019, and countries in host were barred from issuing new work visas.

North Korea has managed to get around this problem by sending workers to neighboring countries on student visas.

Pyongyang had hoped to continue doing so beyond 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on those plans when it prompted North Korea and China to seal their borders in January 2020.

According to unofficial statistics, at one time there were 100,000 North Korean workers in China, but it is estimated that there are only around two or three thousand around Dandong and the surrounding Liaoning province, a indicated the second source.

Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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