Running restaurants at multiple places with employees of illegal status
KATHMANDU: In a series of investigative reports in the recent past, Khabarhub unearthed several illicit activities of North Koreans living illegally in Nepal. After the news published by Khabarhub about North Korean activities in Nepal, including the cyber espionage, thorough investigation kick-started following which many North Korean hackers fled from the places where they were living across different places of Nepal.
With noose of laws tightening over the North Koreans living in the country illegally, several Nepali citizens having a business and personal relationship with them deserted these North Koreans by excluding them from any future deals.
Based on the report published in the Khabarhub, an investigative team came across a hospital ‘Ne-Koryo’ operating in Damauli with North Korean doctors working sans labor permits issued to them. Those doctors who landed in Nepal on a tourist visa started working in the hospital without satisfying compulsory legal formalities after the Embassy of North Korea in Nepal lobbied for them with the Government of Nepal.
When Nepal Medical Council (NMC) was informed about their substandard performance in the hospital who were duping Nepalese patients, actions were taken against the hospital and the North Korean doctors operating and working illegally in Nepal. Now the Ne-Koryo Hospital has been closed down.
North Korean diplomats are still learned to have been lobbying with the communist leaders of the present government for reopening the hospital in the name of communist camaraderie between communists of Nepal and North Korea.
Illegally employed workers of illegal status in restaurants
There is a restaurant ‘Himalayan SoJe Restaurant’ operating in a house situated near a road in Sanepa, Lalitpur. The name of the restaurant is written legibly in two languages – English and Korean. Started not a long time ago, the restaurant has illegally employed six North Korean workers. Out of these six North Korean employees, three of them are staying in Nepal on tourist visas while the other three do not have labor permits to work in Nepal.
The restaurant has been registered with the Department of Industry on September 5, 2018, in the name of two North Korean citizens — Ju Ok Hwang and Il Hyang Kang. The registration record points out the location of this restaurant in Lazimpat, Kathmandu but the actual operation of the business is taking place in Sanepa.
The registration record kept with the government further reveals that this restaurant will have a capacity to accommodate 100 customers at a time on its 100 seats and employs 23 staff (workers) to serve them. Foreign workers with the illegal status that too much less in number raise several questions over the power and function of the government as weak monitoring.
Pyongyang Okryugwan Restaurant closes after govt’s action
On the last week of April in 2018, police rounded up 11 North Korean nationals illegally working in Nepal. Acting on a complaint lodged with the police, a special team from the Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD) arrested them from the Durbar Marga-based Pyongyang Okryugwan Restaurant operated by North Korean nationals.
Soon after the arrest, they were handed over to the Department of Immigration. But, bowing down to pressure, they were released immediately. According to police, they were working in Nepal sans work permit since long. They arrived in Nepal on a business visa and stated working illegally.
Immigration officials released North Korean nationals, Kang Jong Ryol, Kim Hye Ryon, Zong Song Mi, Zi Yang Gyong, Ri Gang Yong, Ri Ok Mi, Kang Il Hang, Hyung Ju Ok, Young Un Jong, Kim Un Hye, and Rim Jo Yo immediately without taking any action. They continued to work at the restaurant as they were freed without taking action. But, the restaurant finally closed after it was dragged into disputes time and again.
Some of the workers returned to North Korea while others are still working illegally at the Sanepa-based Himalayan SoJe Restaurant. It is said that North Korea is running the restaurant to strengthen its espionage mechanism.
The United Nations (UN) has imposed strict sanctions on North Korea for its involvement in haphazard productions and tests of nuclear weapons. Despite that, North Koreans are working illegally in Nepal after arriving on a business visa. According to a record maintained by the Department of Industry, five restaurants have been registered with 100 percent ownership of the North Koreans.
Here’s the registration chronology:
On July 9, 2007, a hotel-cum-restaurant with 16 beds and 32 sitting capacity registered in the name of Tong Min Ri to operate at Goldhunga, Kathmandu.
On August 15, 2007, a restaurant with 200 sitting capacity registered in the name of Young Ju Kim.
On June 22, 2018, a restaurant named Botonggang Restaurant and Bar Pvt. Ltd with sitting capacity of 150 persons registered in the names of Hwang UN HA, Sin Yong IM and Ri Chang Nam.
On October 1, 2018, a restaurant named Minas Restaurant and Bar Pvt. Ltd with 100 persons sitting capacity registered in the names of Jong Kum Yong, Pak Son Hui and Ho IL Ran.
Not only this, 14 North Koreans are working illegally in Botonggang Restaurant, purchased from Chinese, located on the third floor of Rising Mall, Kamaladi, Kathmandu. Observers say that the increased activities of illegal foreign workers in Nepal can pose a security threat.
North Korean diplomats getting insulted in Nepal
Highly placed officials of Nepal and other political leaders are feeling hesitant now to meet North Korean diplomats after American pressure is mounting on the Nepal government with regard to controlling the activities of North Koreans within the country.
The USA and its friends in the region have been keenly watching both the communist government in Nepal and North Korean diplomats to take action against both of them which will always be counterproductive for Nepal in short and long run.
The Embassy of the United States in Kathmandu has reminded the incumbent Prime Minister K P Oli and his cabinet ministers regarding UN sanctions against North Korea and the international obligation of the Government of Nepal to follow the UN resolutions. Understanding the gravity of the situation, the Government of Nepal has stopped romancing with North Korean diplomats at the excuse of showing communist camaraderie between Nepal and North Korea.
The US foreign officials had earlier warned of withdrawing assistance and financial grants if the incumbent government did not stop its cooperation with North Koreans in Nepal and further encouragement to illegal activities of North Koreans living illegally here.
It should be noted that Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali refused to entertain an appointment request made by the ambassador of North Korea to Nepal. Minister Gyawali in his present term has met the ambassador of North Korea only once. North Korean ambassador is keen to arrange a visit for the foreign minister of Nepal to North Korea but no progress has been made in this regard.
Shankar Das Bairagi, the secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not been able to fix a meeting to officially formalize the date of the visit. Under the pressure of the US Government, no official of the foreign ministry has accepted any offer of lunch or dinner or a party extended by the Embassy of North Korea in Nepal.
The United States – Nepal Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council held in Washington DC last year was a lesson for Nepal as Mark Linskat, American trade representative, handed over all the illegal activities of North Koreans taking place in Nepal. The US warned, even at that time, of dire consequences for Nepal if encouragement to illegal activities of the North Koreans was not stopped by the present government.
Chandra Kumar Ghimire, the then secretary of Ministry of Commerce and Supply assured the US trade representatives of no such encouragement to North Koreans any more in Nepal. Michael Richard Pompeo, the Secretary of the State in no uncertain words expressed his displeasure about the illegal activities of North Koreans in Nepal with Pradeep Gyawali, Nepal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in the meeting in Washington D.C. last year.
Gyawali had then promised Pompeo about not allowing the Nepali land for any illegal activities by any country against any other country. However, North Koreans continued their activities in Nepal without any action taken by the Government of Nepal against them. This was enough for the US to raise alarm and even warned Nepal of withdrawing all development assistance extended to the country.
With no halt to North Koreans’ illegal activities in Nepal, Michael Pompeo wrote an official letter in last Falgun to Prime Minister K P Oli reminding him once again his failure to take any actions against the illegal activities being carried out in Nepal despite the assurance given by Foreign Minister Gyawali.
David J. Ranz, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs visited Nepal in last Jestha and met Ram Bahadur Thapa, the Home Minister of Nepal. Once again, he drew the attention of Home Minister Thapa regarding the illegal activities being carried by North Koreans in Nepal. Home Minister Thapa in his clear message to David J. Ranz had mentioned that Nepal’s land will never be used against any country.
Mark Lambert, Special Envoy sent by US Government, visited Kathmandu in last week of Jestha and had an extensive discussion with a range of Nepali political leaders regarding North Korean illegal activities taking place right under the nose of the government of the Nepal Communist Party. He had a serious objection to Nepal’s land being used by North Korea against the US.
After North Koreans began to take away a chunk of illegally earned Nepalese rupees to North Korea, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Chairman of the current ruling party of Nepal opened his eyes and refused to meet them despite repeated requests made to this effect.
Interestingly, Jo Yong Man, North Korean Ambassador to Nepal did not get time to meet either the Prime Minister Oli or party Chairman Dahal despite making a request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Jo Yong Man even reached Baluwatar to directly meet PM Oli without taking any appointment but a high official from the government asked him to leave the place, as a source revealed.
North Korean Ambassador to Nepal has contacted all the prominent ministries of Nepal such as Home, Labor, Industry and Foreign Affairs only to get negative answer each time. North Koreans have not stopped their illegal activities as they are in contact with other top leaders outside the government who are acting as a bridge and helping the North Koreans to use the Nepali land against the US. These North Koreans are collecting bundles of illegally gotten money to send the same to North Korea.