I Ate in a North Korean Restaurant

Sharon Silke Carty
Haedanghwa restaurant Beijing
Haedanghwa restaurant Beijing


In the lobby of the Haedanghwa restaurant in Beijing is a happy little aquarium filled with chubby orange goldfish. Normally, this decorative feature would be unremarkable. But here, in a restaurant likely run by and funneling funds to the North Korean government, I feel like one of those fish in the tank. Like we're being watched.

It's interesting being a strawberry blonde laowai (foreigner) in China. Even in a metropolitan city like Beijing I get a lot of stares. I'm generally used to that reaction, but it's more intense in this restaurant, where my dining partner (a friend from Washington, D.C., in Beijing on business) and I are literally enemies of the restaurant's backers.