When the Alaska pollock, the “national fish of the Korean peninsula,” started disappearing from menus at Beijing’s North Korean restaurants in late August, it was a sign China’s trade sanctions on Pyongyang had taken effect.
Now, some of the restaurants themselves are on the brink of closure after China ordered all North Korean businesses in the country to wind down by mid-January. This has been Beijing’s sixth and toughest sanction since April 2016 in response to Pyongyang’s repeated ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
“All of our staff will be sent back to North Korea when the restaurant closes in three months,” said a waitress at Unban, a popular restaurant near the sprawling North Korean embassy in downtown Beijing.
The waitress, whose nametag read Jin Runzheng, was mixing a bowl of naengmyeon — North Korean cold noodles served in a tangy iced broth with cucumber, slices of Korean pear, strips of lightly pickled radish and shredded freshwater eel.