James T. Areddy of the Wall Street Journal paid a visit to some of Shanghai’s most popular North Korean restaurants following news of the demise of the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il. Here’s what he found:
In the Shanghai district Hongqiao, the glass façade of the almost-clinically clean D.P.R Korean Restaurant displays intertwined Korean and Chinese flags, plus Santa Claus. But the mood Monday was far from jolly inside the suddenly and indefinitely closed establishment.
A lone woman in a black sweater – presumably the manager – sat sobbing at the table furthest from the door. With a vacant stare and warming her hands on a cup of tea, the woman’s eyes were puffy and red. The noise of would-be patrons brought four younger women out from a back room. All were wearing traditional choson-ot and likewise had moist eyes and sullen faces.
A question about Kim was met with a single word in Chinese from one of the young women: “Leave.”
At kilometer or so away at another Shanghai restaurant, Pyongyang KoRyo, it was all bustle. Staff wearing expressions as bright as their pink choson-ot smiled as they confirmed themselves to be North Korean while offering to seat guests.
But the elegant young woman in charge drew a firm line at questions, even as she bowed to her inquisitive new arrivals.
At the mention of Kim’s name, she reflexively dropped her gaze and lifted her finger to her lips with a motion – a demand – to hush.
“Shi jia-de,” she said in Mandarin: “It is fake.”