Thirteen North Koreans who worked for a strange North Korea-operated international restaurant chain have defected to the South, reports say. From the Wall Street Journal:
The group of one male manager and 12 female employees were based at a restaurant in an undisclosed country outside North Korea and reached South Korea on Thursday, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
The defection is unusual because of the size of the group and because North Koreans who are allowed to work abroad are regarded among the most loyal to the Pyongyang regime. Group defections by North Koreans are also usually by families or those with very close ties because of a culture of individuals informing on each other to the authorities.
As it happens, Daniel Otis wrote about these restaurants for Slate in 2013; they're quite a phenomenon. There are about 130 of them in 12 countries, and they're reportedly run by a wing of the North Korean regime involved in money laundering and drug and weapons transactions...
The restaurants are staffed by young female waitresses-slash-musical performers from elite Pyongyang families who live on site and are not allowed to leave without an escort. Otis wrote that the restaurants' customers are often South Koreans, particularly men, who are curious for contact with North Koreans and/or want to behave lecherously toward the waitresses:
The waitresses, all in their 20s, are perfect comrades. Standing next to the tables—they refuse offers to sit down—they politely laugh at jokes, exchange pleasantries, and answer questions with short declarative sentences. The women spurn their drunk customers’ advances with cheery grace, subtly sidestepping attempted gropes so no one loses face.
Otis wrote that the food he ate at one of the restaurants, in Cambodia, was generally good, though he did not try the $28 dog casserole. You can read his whole piece here.