Travel

Most visitors of N. Korea-themed bar in Seoul just there for fun

SEOUL : Tucked away in the dazzling neon of Seoul's Hongdae nightlife district, a small building bears an image of a North Korean-looking construction worker pointing to the slogan: "Look! It's the Pyongyang Bar!"

There are no post, telephone or transport links between the two halves of the divided Korean peninsula, but Seoul's only North Korean-themed pub aims to give its patrons a taste of their nuclear-armed neighbour.

Owner Jang Woo-kyung has never been north of the demilitarised zone, but the bar's decor is inspired by imagery from across the border.

The premises are festooned with North Korean-style posters, the lime green walls reminiscent of the pastel shades seen on Pyongyang apartment blocks, and slogans painted around the pub are written in a white-on-red script similar to the North's propaganda.

Even before the business opened, Mr Jang was ordered by the authorities to remove portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il - the grandfather and father of current leader Kim Jong Un - from the exterior.

"I have no intention of dignifying or praising North Korea," said Mr Jang. "I'm just a man loyal to capitalism."

He used to run a Japanese restaurant, but with Seoul and Tokyo locked in a bitter diplomatic row, his takings plunged by 50 per cent and he opened this new business last October.

"A lot of people come here - some who sympathise with North Korea and some who hate North Korea - but the majority of people, 80 per cent to 90 per cent, just come here for fun," he said.

The menu offers typical North Korean dishes such as Pyongyang cold noodles and drinks labelled with imaginary Northern brands. A mock gift shop is stocked with genuine Northern trinkets and snacks.

The shop also sells traditional Korean dresses in the bright, bold colours seen north of the border, rather than the more subdued, ornate Southern style.

The clientele are largely curious Southerners, with the occasional Northern defector. - AFP

Food & Drink