Overseas restaurant earnings

According to the Washington Free Beacon:

North Korea’s global network of state-run restaurants, most in China, are dens of espionage and sites of operations involving tens of thousands of overseas North Koreans who send the regime in Pyongyang more than $100 million in hard currency annually, according to U.S. and western intelligence officials.

In Asia alone, the U.S. government has identified 60 restaurants ranging from Nepal to Cambodia to Dandong, China – located along the Yalu River separating China from North Korea.

Additionally, North Korea has dispatched up to 40,000 guest workers abroad. The workers are forced to live in slave-like conditions and provide a large portion of their funds to the communist government, said officials who discussed intelligence on the operations on condition of anonymity.

North Korea’s restaurants have become important sources of currency. The restaurants make annual payments to Pyongyang of between $10,000 and $30,000, according to defectors from North Korea with direct knowledge.

From the 60 restaurants in Asia—including 44 in China, one each in Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia, Nepal, Indonesia, and Laos, and five each in Cambodia and Vietnam—up to $1.8 million is remitted to Pyongyang.

Under Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong-Un’s predecessor and father, all North Korean foreign intelligence stations were directed to procure their own funds. “The Reconnaissance General Bureau has been using its North Korean restaurants in Beijing to finance its operations,” one defector said.

The North Koreans operate 11 restaurants in the Chinese capital; six in Shanghai and six in Dandong near North Korea.

Many of the restaurants feature a traditional cold noodle dish and include song and dance numbers by North Korean waitresses and singers who intelligence officials say are also trained in the black arts of intelligence seduction.

The restaurant network is controlled by the North Korean military’s General Reconnaissance Bureau—specifically, Bureau 39, which is in charge of gathering hard currency for the regime. The Bureau is part of North Korea’s vast political police and intelligence system designed to keep the totalitarian communist regime of ruler Kim Jong-Un in power.

The General Reconnaissance Bureau is under Gen. O Kuk-Ryol, a National Defense Commission vice chairman, who has been directly linked by U.S. intelligence to North Korea’s production of counterfeit $100 bills so convincing they have been dubbed “supernotes.” The Treasury Department recent issued a new $100 bill with security features designed in part as a result of the North Korean counterfeiting.

The restaurants also have been linked to money laundering operations and other illicit activities by North Korea, whose agents in the past have been implicated in illegal drug trafficking.

The Pyongyang Koryo Restaurant in Dandong was opened in 2012 and is the largest franchise with more than 200 staff workers. It is located in a five story building on the Yalu River separating China from North Korea.

Another mission of the restaurants is to spy on South Korean travelers who frequent the restaurants. Defectors say waitresses at the eateries are trained in intelligence gathering with an emphasis on prying corporate secrets from business travelers.

The restaurants are also meeting places for North Korean intelligence officers and North Korean agents. Officials, businessmen, and overseas workers also frequent the restaurants to recruit targets for foreign intelligence services, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), China’s Ministry of State Security, and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, as well as other spy agencies.

You can read the full story here:
North Korea’s Overseas Restaurants Used for Espionage and Gaining Hard Currency
Washington Free Beacon
Bill Gertz
2013-10-15

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