DPRK restaurant manager allegedly defects

UPDATE (1/3/2011): According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea has shut down a restaurant in Kathmandu and recalled all of its staff after the manager absconded with the takings in late November.

South Koreans in Kathmandu said the 13 to 15 North Korean staff of the Kumgangsan restaurant were recalled to the North right after the manager fled.

But the Kathmandu branch of the Pyongyang Okryugwan restaurant chain, which had been misidentified as the one where the manager worked, is still in business in a back alley about 1 km across the street from Kumgangsan.

Most South Korean tourists and about 400 expats in Kathmandu have stopped going to the restaurant since the South Korean Embassy in Nepal wrote to expats and tour operators asking them to refrain from visiting North Korean restaurants after the North’s torpedo attack on the Navy corvette Cheonan in March last year.

“Please refrain from visiting North Korean restaurants that are becoming sources of funds for the Kim Jong-il regime. Anyone who has visited such restaurants will be subject to investigation on charges of violating the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Law and the National Security Law upon returning home,” the embassy warned in an email.

A South Korean resident said the Kumgangsan and Okryugwan restaurants had depended largely on South Korean customers, so their sales must have dwindled.

The Kumgangsan manager, identified as Yang, reportedly came to South Korea via India. Nepalese police released two South Koreans who were arrested after North Korea accused them of kidnapping him and were deported on charges of violating immigration law.

UPDATE (12/23/2010): According to the AFP, the Nepalese have released the two South Koreans who allegedly assisted the North Korean to defect.

Nepal has released two South Koreans held for their alleged involvement in the case of a missing North Korean, the South’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

The two men, who live in Nepal, were ordered to leave the country within 15 days after being freed, the ministry said.

Yonhap news agency said the pair were accused of helping a North Korean surnamed Yang flee the Himalayan nation across the border into India, after which he defected to the South.

A local media report in the Himalayan country had said they were arrested following pressure from Pyongyang’s embassy in Kathmandu, which wanted them charged with kidnapping Yang.

South Korean newspapers have said Yang was the manager of the local franchise of an overseas restaurant chain operated by the North.

The franchises are an important source of scarce foreign currency for the cash-strapped regime.

Some 20,000 North Koreans have fled their homeland and arrived in South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 war, almost always through a third country.

UPDATE (12/15/2010): According to the Choson Ilbo the defector left with some substantial funds from the DPRK restaurant in which he worked.

ORIGINAL POST (12/14/2010): According to the Choson Ilbo:

A North Korean who went missing in Nepal recently had been the manager of a North Korean restaurant there, it emerged on Monday.

A diplomatic source said the man, identified as Yang, managed the Kathmandu branch of the Pyongyang Okryugwan restaurant chain and had been there for about a year. It seems he defected and is believed to be in New Delhi, India now.

Overseas branches of Okryugwan are a main source of hard currency for North Korea, and the regime carefully selects managers. The North is apparently very sensitive about Yang’s defection, according to South Korean intelligence, because he made off with a stash of dollars that were supposed to be sent to the North.

The North Korean Embassy has asked the Nepali authorities to investigate two South Koreans identified as Choi and Sun who it says had friendly ties with Yang and kidnapped him. Choi and Sun have been arrested, and South Korean Embassy officials are negotiating for their release.

Read the full story here:
N.Korean Restaurant Manager Absconds from Nepal
Choson Ilbo


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