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Europe's First North Korean Restaurant in Amsterdam

by Amsterdam.com
​The northern half of the Korean peninsula has never been regarded as a source of great food. In fact, North Korea is actually an impoverished country with food shortages so serious that the nation has received millions of tons of food shipments from many different sources around the world since 1995 in order to help feed its sometimes starving populace.

The facts have apparently not dampened the enthusiasm for North Korean cuisine for one Mr. Remco van Daal, who has opened Europe’s first North Korean restaurant in the famously liberal and easy-going atmosphere of downtown Amsterdam. Although van Daal’s Pyongyang restaurant in Amsterdam has the same name as a similar chain of restaurants currently set up in China and across Asia, and that many media reports have linked to the North Korean regime and activities including money-laundering, he insists the name has nothing to do with politics. "You can think what you want about North Korea," said van Daal, "But we want to help patrons discover the people and the country.”

Europe's first North Korean restaurant sits in a typical Dutch brick building in a quiet suburb on Amsterdam's outskirts where the name "Pyongyang" is painted on a signboard decorated with a floral design.
Inside the restaurant, the walls are decorated with scenes of North Korean hunters and soldiers along with portraits of young girls, all glorifying the regime of North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-Un. The proprietor says the restaurant sprang from his own personal initiative and has nothing to do with the Kim Jong-Un regime. Van Daal also pointed out that the money to finance the new restaurant came from his partner Remco Hellingman, who just happens to be the owner of a neighboring hotel where the restaurant's nine North Korean employees all live. Despite van Daal’s claims of independence, the restaurant's staff were selected by the North Korean government and trained by the Pyongyang Restaurant in Beijing, China.

After serving a typical nine-course meal that costs about $100 per person, the restaurant staff entertains guests with various songs and national hymns as the lyrics are displayed karaoke-style on a large screen television set on the wall. Even though some have suggested the restaurant could be a propaganda tool for North Korea, Van Daal says “All we want is a window into a country that's largely unknown." Van Daal’s history with North Korea goes back to 2009 when he set up the Foundation DPRK (the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea) in Amsterdam in order to bring the Dutch and North Koreans closer together. And even though the North Korean ambassador based in Switzerland attended the venue’s opening night, Van Daal said “It was out of pure interest for our work,“ and that his new operation in Amsterdam is his venture alone. "We are totally independent," Van Daal said. Now all that remains to be seen just how North Korea’s agreement to suspend long-range missile tests in return for massive U.S. food aid will be affected by the regime’s recent announcement that it would launch a long-range rocket to put a satellite into orbit later this year.

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