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food / travel

Tasting "Pyongyang" In Amsterdam: Welcome To Europe's First North Korean Restaurant

A North Korean "cultural center" has opened near Amsterdam. And though neighbors find the curtains a bit off-putting, the food -- served in nine courses -- is tasty, nicely presented and comes with a dash of live entertainment. A long way indeed

Korean potato pancake (KFoodaddict)
Korean potato pancake (KFoodaddict)

*NEWSBITES

DIE WELT/Worldcrunch

AMSTERDAM -- During the week, the place tends to be pretty quiet. So getting a table at the newly-opened Pyongyang in Amsterdam (the first North Korean restaurant in Europe) was not a problem. "One person, 7 p.m., thank you very much." So far, so good with the staffer who answered the phone. The eatery'ss personnel was supposedly "hand-picked" back in the capital city the restaurant is named for, although whether the late "Dear Leader" or his son Kim Jong-un did the picking is unclear.

The taxi driver isn't so sure we really want to go to Osdorp, which is outside the city center, and well off the usual tourist path. But there's nothing sinister about the neighborhood of boxy new buildings: an old people's home, a hotel, it's all very Dutch, clean, orderly. Some of the residents are a little skeptical about their Korean neighbors, who have committed the cultural faux pas of hanging curtains. Nobody can see what's going on inside the two-story "cultural center." Also, people sometimes arrive in black limousines.

A friendly woman wearing traditional Korean garb and a large smile answers the door when I ring, and leads me into the center's small dining room. I can take pictures, she says, but only after the meal. Two other tables are occupied, one by some non-Korean academics and the other by a man and a woman. The man had visited North Korea.

There's a karaoke machine, and a TV showing images of saccharine landscapes, workers wielding red flags, laughing soldiers, well-nourished children, brand-new buildings and statues of big wigs. The art on the walls includes a cityscape of Pyongyang.

Dinner and a show

The meal is good. It's Korean, nine courses (various mushroom dishes, black chicken soup, traditional barbecue, rice balls for dessert) and nicely presented, but no different or more exotic than you would get at any South Korean restaurant in a large German city. The lady in Korean dress tells me that kimchi (fermented cabbage) ensures longevity. She and her colleagues are ever-present, making small talk, pouring water, clearing and serving, except when they're entertaining us with karaoke, playing the piano, and doing theater skits.

I learn they've been stationed in Europe for three years and live nearby, and that they're members of the North Korean elite. If they flee, their families back in North Korea will suffer consequences. But they are still guarded, neighbors have told the Dutch media. The cooks aren't as carefully watched because they have all worked in China, where the North Korean government runs several restaurants in order to bring in foreign currency.

Foreign currency is not the point of the Dutch initiative, however, at least according to the person who launched the idea, Remco van Daal. He gives us a tour of the second floor of the cultural center after the meal. Here there's an art gallery featuring the kind of art dictators love: images depicting smiling workers, machine guns. Kim writings are on display in a room with pamphlets, posters and postcards. The items are not presently for sale, van Daal says; he's still working on the merchandizing angle.

Read the full story in German by Torsten Thissen.

Photo - KFoodaddict

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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