North Korean businesses in Cambodia, including several restaurants in Phnom Penh and a museum in Siem Reap, have closed their doors to customers as a United Nations (UN) deadline for their closure approaches.
Foreign media reports said the closures came after a request from the Cambodian Government, which has indicated that it will comply with fresh UN sanctions imposed on the secretive Stalinist state.
A recent UPI media agency report said Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn told North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song, who was here last month, that the Kingdom “has no choice but to comply with the sanctions”.
In September of this year, the UN Security Council (UNSC), in response to North Korean nuclear testing, passed a resolution that imposed a new round of sanctions on North Korean businesses abroad.
A prior UNSC resolution passed in December 22, 2017, also demanded the repatriation of most North Koreans working abroad, and gave member states two years to comply with it.
At its peak, there were more than 100 North Korean restaurants spread across East Asia, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, including Russia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar. But UN sanctions plus deteriorating relations have resulted in some of the North Korean restaurants in those countries to be shut. The restaurants are said to be a main source of hard currency for the impoverished nation that is under a raft of UN sanctions. Critics also have accused the North Koreans of using the restaurants to avoid sanctions imposed by the UN and foreign governments.
The UNSC resolution requires that such establishments cease their operations by January 9, 2020.
Last week, NK News, a US-based website that reports on North Korean issues, said the looming deadline forced the temporary closures of most of these North Korean businesses in Cambodia. Citing local staff, NK News also reported that the North Korean-owned Grand Panorama Museum in Siem Reap has closed its doors to visitors.
These restaurants are known to be secretive, with guests not allowed to take photographs while inside.
They used to be packed with many people, mostly South Koreans and Chinese tourists eager to take a glimpse of North Korea, but recent media reports suggest that these establishments are struggling to attract customers.