Myanmar expels North Korean restaurant staff

A performer at Yangon’s now-closed Pyongyang Koryo Restaurant.
A performer at Yangon’s now-closed Pyongyang Koryo Restaurant.

Myanmar’s government has reportedly ordered the closing of Yangon’s famous North Korean restaurant and expelled its staff after the United States asked Myanmar to honor UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

“The expulsion of DPRK (North Korean) laborers working at the DPRK restaurant in Yangon is part of Myanmar’s compliance with DPRK-related UNSC resolutions,” Aryani Manring, the assistant public affairs spokesperson for the US embassy in Yangon, told the Irrawaddy.

The Pyongyang Koryo Restaurant opened on Saya San Road in Bahan Township in 2011. While it was open, it was known for its relatively steep prices and nightly variety shows starring the restaurant’s young, female staff. The performances included traditional North Korean music, slightly more modern choreographed dances, and some inoffensive pop. Guests were invited to hand the performers bouquets of plastic flowers that were owned by the restaurant, only to learn later that they were charged K5,000 for every bouquet they “gave.”

The staff were also known for their pleasant demeanors and Burmese language skills.

A Bahan Township official told BBC Burmese radio on May 31 that the Immigration Department had ordered the restaurant to close more than two months ago. The property has reportedly been sold to a new owner and us undergoing renovations.

The closing of the restaurant follows a series of moves that demonstrate Myanmar’s apparent siding with the United States in its decades-old standoff with North Korea. In June 2017, Myanmar expelled a North Korean diplomat named Kim Chol Nam, who was reportedly an operative of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), which is under Security Council sanctions for being a channel for North Korean arms exports.

The diplomat’s expulsion was documented in Myanmar’s first implementation report on sanctions imposed on North Korea, which the government submitted to the United Nations in Oct. 2017.

The document stated: “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is fully committed to the implementation of Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 2371 (2017), 2321 (2016) and 2270 (2016), and supports efforts to resolve the issue of denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful and constructive manner.”

Similarly, in March 2016, North Korean ambassador Kim Sok Chol was expelled from Myanmar in compliance with US and South Korean sanctions over his role as a “KOMID facilitator.”

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