In bad taste? North Korean-themed restaurant in Seoul removes Kim images

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Empty frames adorn the restaurant’s exterior wall after the removal of the signs with the portrait of North Korean leaders and the image of a North Korean flag. (AP)
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A letters reading Pyongyang, center, is seen at the North Korea-themed restaurant under construction in Seoul on Monday, September 16, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 September 2019

In bad taste? North Korean-themed restaurant in Seoul removes Kim images

  • North Korea-themed decorations were intended to attract attention and make the restaurant more profitable
  • The restaurant’s exterior still has socialist-style propaganda paintings with parodies of North Korean slogans

SEOUL: You can sell North Korean food in South Korea. But you’re likely to get into trouble if you decorate your restaurant with pictures seen as praising North Korea.
Authorities say the owner of a restaurant under construction in Seoul “voluntarily” removed signs with images of North Korean leaders and the North Korean flag from the restaurant’s exterior on Monday, after they were criticized on social media over the weekend.
Police quoted the owner as saying the North Korea-themed decorations were intended to attract attention and make the restaurant more profitable.
Police said they are looking at the possibility that the owner violated South Korea’s security law, under which praising North Korea can be punished by up to seven years in prison.
Full enforcement of the National Security Law has been rare in recent years as relations with North Korea have improved greatly since the Cold War era. In the past, South Korean dictators often used the security law to imprison and torture dissidents until the country achieved democracy in the late 1980s.
Many restaurants in South Korea sell North Korean-style cold noodles, dumplings and other food. But none is believed to have portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the late grandfather and father of current leader Kim Jong Un, or a North Korean flag.
Despite the removal of the images, the restaurant’s exterior still has socialist-style propaganda paintings with parodies of North Korean slogans such as “More booze to comrades” or “Let’s bring about a great revolution in the development of side dishes.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the owner would remove those decorations as well. The owner hasn’t expressed any intention of changing the restaurant’s concept, according to a Seoul police officer who requested anonymity, citing department rules.
The restaurant is being built in Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood, a bustling area known for fancy bars and nightclubs.
Both police and local officials refused to reveal details about the owner, citing privacy concerns.
During a visit to the site on Monday, some residents expressed opposition to the restaurant, while others said they were curious about what it would be like once it opens.
“I think it is too early to do this kind of thing (displaying portraits or the North Korean flag). But once this place opens for business I would come here purely out of curiosity,” said Park So-hyun, a company employee.
Another citizen, Oh Sang-yeop, said, “I see they have taken down the portraits and flag, so I think it will be OK.”


Russians rush to public bath after coronavirus lockdown without hot water

Updated 30 May 2020

Russians rush to public bath after coronavirus lockdown without hot water

  • Public baths only way for many Russians living in smaller towns to wash themselves in comfort

TUTAYEV, Russia: Russian women flocked to their small town’s “banya” or public steam sauna when it reopened after the coronavirus lockdown, for the luxury of hot water after going without for six weeks.
The public banya is the only way for many Russians living in smaller towns to wash themselves in comfort as older homes do not have central heating or hot water supplies.
In Tutayev, a town some 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow on the Volga River, only 71 percent of the 40,000 strong population have all the conveniences, official data shows.
“It’s a necessity for us as we couldn’t wash ourselves,” one of the first banya visitors, Svetlana Travnikova, said. “How is it possible (not to wash), pandemic or no pandemic?”
Another visitor at Friday’s first session, Irina Kutavtseva, said going to the banya was a festive occasion for her.
Receptionist Tamara Bryukova, donning a mask and clad in rubber gloves, said calls from those in need of a hot steam were coming non-stop. Naked bathing means separate days are set aside for women and men and next week is fully booked, she said.
People had to book in advance to limit numbers for social distancing and have their temperature taken at the entrance, administrators said, and the hall-like steam room was disinfected after each 90-minute session.
Public banyas in many other Russian regions remain closed as the decision on easing lockdown measures is taken by local authorities according to the situation on the ground.
Local officials in the Yaroslav region, where Tutayev is located, had recommended banyas work “without visitors or online” to prevent the spread of the virus, a decision which caused a public outcry at the time.
“Banyas working remotely without visitors is a joke,” Tutayev resident Vladimir Kolomenskiy said, “and when people can’t wash it’s a health risk too.”