A North Korean Waitress Dishes on Kim Jong Un

"He's great," she says.
KJU on a boat banner.jpg
Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a not-very-subtle warning to his North Korean allies this week to stop holding the world hostage. But there's still one place where the Chinese and North Koreans can find some common ground.

Pyongyang Haitanghua is a well-known restaurant in Beijing, staffed by North Koreans and serving the impoverished country's cuisine. As tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to rise, I was curious to make reservations to dine there this past weekend. On the phone, we were asked if we were Americans -- but nobody seemed to hold it against us.

North Korea's neighbors may have been fretting about a possible missile test, but there wasn't any tension at Haitanghua, which was about half-filled with Korean businessmen and tourists. A television displayed an endless feed of North Korean entertainment shows (more Lawrence Welk than Gangnam style), interspersed with shots of Kim Jong-un being greeted by joyous citizens bowing and beaming at the chubby dictator.

We ask our waitress about him.

"He's great," she says, with a smile that is coy and a little flirtatious. "He's very capable."

But, we ask, isn't he young?

"Yes, he's young," she answers.

Isn't he too young for the job?

"No, he's just the right person to be our great leader," she says.

Do you think there will be a war?

"We're not afraid," she responds.

Yes, but do you think there will be one?

"We don't want to have a war," she answers, "but even if there is one, we're not afraid. Our people are young and our nation is strong and we're prepared."

Our waitress is 23 and has been in Beijing a year. She's on a three-year international services internship offered by the Chinese government, after which Pyongyang will assist her in getting another job back home.

After our meal, which was a bit bland but perfectly edible, we paid our bill -- 384 RMB, or $62 for the three of us. By 9 pm, the restaurant was deserted.

Debra Bruno is a Beijing-based journalist. She blogs at www.notbyoccident.blogspot.com.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in China

Just In