Pyongyang Papers has continued its recent investigations into the illicit money-making schemes of North Korean individual Nam Un Gyong and her daughter, Ri Son Chong. As previously reported, Nam owned and ran a restaurant called the Blue Flower in Cambodia, this is a blatant violation of UN sanctions which prohibits DPRK individuals working abroad. The money earned from DPRK nationals abroad such as Nam and her daughter, is sent back to the DPRK regime and continues to fund its nuclear weapons program.

The Cambodian government ordered the Blue Flower to close and so we have been keen to see what Nam and Ri have been doing since the closure of the restaurant.

Ri Son Chong was studied business administration at a University in Cambodia, but we know she is also involved in the illicit endeavors of her mother and some of her own. Ri Son Chong helped both in the kitchen and on the cashier desk at the Blue Flower until its closure, whilst also facilitating the production and sale of kimchi to restaurants in the local area of Phnom Penh. We contacted the Blue Flower Facebook page after releasing the last article for comment and the page name and display photo was swiftly changed…

Nam & Ri movements

Pyongyang Papers believes that Nam, and her daughter Ri Son Chong traveled from Phnom Penh to Beijing in the middle of January and Nam’s plan is to head to Shenyang, then Dandong and then back to Beijing before finally traveling back to the DPRK! In our last investigation we noted how Nam had parted ways with her former business partner and was looking for a new partner to open a joint venture restaurant in China. With Nam planning to head back to the DPRK we are unsure where this leaves the plan for the joint venture restaurant in China. Maybe Nam has passed the plan onto another DPRK national in China. If you have any information on the status on the joint venture please get in touch via the ‘Contact Us’ page.

During our investigations, we have also uncovered that Nam Un Gyong also has another daughter – Ri Son Hwa. Ri Son Hwa attended a foreign university and currently works as a trading employee at the Rakwon Guidance Bureau. The Rakwon Guidance Bureau is believed to sit under ‘Room 39’, a secretive party organization which seeks to maintain foreign currency for the North Korean leaders.

It is well documented that ‘Room/Bureau 39’ is a secretive North Korean party organization that seeks ways to maintain the foreign currency slush fund for the country’s leaders

Luxury Goods

Investigations by Pyongyang Papers have also uncovered additional details about Nam Un Gyong and Ri Son Chong activities. It appears the duo were also involved in the luxury goods trade. We are aware of a deal involving both Ri Son Chong and Nam with a Thailand-based DPRK Korea Chilsongmun Trading Corporation (CTC) employee. Ri Son Chong and Nam have spent hundreds of thousands of $’s on alcohol, buying and exporting it from Cambodia to DPRK. Importing and exporting luxury goods to and from North Korea also contravenes UN sanctions, however it is widely known that Kim Jong Un is partial to unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking. We wonder whether Ri Son Chong and Nam’s shipment is headed straight for their leader? Nam and Ri Son Chong also worked with individuals Heng Sovannary and Srey Pov, based in Cambodia, to export more alcohol to DPRK.

The purchasing of luxury goods isn’t limited to just alcohol as we believe that Ri Son Chong has been buying Tommy Hilfiger purses as gifts for friends on her return to the DPRK. We also know Ri Son Chong was looking into other high-end brands such as Bottega Veneta.

Moving Money

It is clear that both Nam and her daughters have the connections and know how to set up these trade deals but we have been questioning how Nam has managed to earn currency overseas as a North Korean citizen without raising suspicion from the banking authorities. Our investigations have uncovered that a Cambodian individual that worked for Nam at her restaurant allowed her to use their bank account to receive large amounts of money. This is a tried and tested method for North Koreans who are earning illicitly abroad.

We are glad to hear that the Cambodian authorities are enforcing sanctions, we hope that China will follow suit and end Nam and her daughters sanction evasion activity. However, based on some of our previous investigations- we aren’t that confident!

Pyongyang Papers will continue to investigate Nam’s sanction breaking activity- if you are aware of any information then please contact us.

Pyongyang Papers recently reported on a restaurant called the Blue Flower located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and is run by two North Koreans: Nam Un Gyong and her daughter Ri Son Chong. By running the restaurant Nam and Ri are violating UN Security Council resolution 2397, which prohibits North Korean citizens from working abroad. It is also widely known that the money made by North Korean’s abroad makes its way back to the Kim Jong Un regime and funds North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, one of many sources of contention between the rest of the world and North Korea.

Blue Flower restaurant employees escape police

In our last article we reported how Cambodian authorities had given orders for The Blue Flower restaurant to be closed down. It appears Nam did not listen to the warning, as in a dramatic turn of events, we have been informed that she had to secretly escape from the Blue Flower and that the DPRK staff narrowly avoided capture by the Cambodian authorities due to the constant police presence at the restaurant. Our sources tell us these North Korean employees have now left Cambodia.

Investigations have confirmed that the Blue Flower restaurant is now officially closed and the premises where the restaurant was located apparently trashed. As mentioned previously, the restaurant employed Cambodian nationals due to DPRK border closure. We understand that the Cambodian nationals have all been fired and reportedly left the area. The restaurant may have closed but this does not mean the money-making activities by Nam & Ri have stopped!

North Korean Restaurants in China

With the closure of the Blue Flower. Nam has parted ways with her former business partner, an individual named Pan Yong and is already looking for a new business partner to help her open a joint venture restaurant in China! Since the beginning of this year, despite sanctions being in place, it is reported that at least 10 restaurants and hotels staffed by Koreans have popped up in three Chinese cities. Now that the DPRK borders are slowly re-opening, we believe that many thousands of North Korean workers are returning home from China under a week-long quarantine after arriving in a number of locations, including Rason, Sinuiju and Sunan. The re-opening of the border has also included freight trains making the journey between the two countries again, with one specifically arriving in Sinuiju and returning back to Dandong 45 minutes later.

A view of the sino-Korean friendship bridge

Could this mean more DPRK workers are preparing to move to China to replace the returning workers? or is China finally observing UN Sanctions? Only time will tell but Pyongyang Papers has suspicion it won’t be China observing UN sanctions! Historically, the two sides of the border have agreed to work together to prevent illegal crossings between the Yalu River and Tumen River, with both countries providing their own guards and agreements around times people were able to make the crossing. China also forcibly returned over 500 North Koreans who had escaped to China back over the border.

Illegal workers bringing home souvenirs

It is also likely that the returning DPRK workers, who were sent abroad to work and earn for the regime, will bring a number of sanctioned items home with them, such as money and luxury goods. It appears the Blue Flower had a number of elaborate, expensive looking paintings throughout the restaurant and stocked a large amount of high-end alcohol. Pyongyang Papers wonders if the returning workers and return of freight movement will see an influx of other sanctioned items into North Korea.

One of the paintings from the Blue Flower restaurant

Pyongyang Papers will continue to investigate Nam & Ri as they look to continue their efforts in China to earn sanctioned revenue for the North Korean regime but it is clear that China has a major role to play in enforcing UN sanctions aimed at stopping funds reaching the DPRK and being used to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile program. This is especially relevant given the recent launch of North Korea’s first ‘spy’ satellite using ballistic missile technology.

If you have any further information on Nam Un Gyong, her daughter Ri Son Chong or any other North Korean sanctions evasion, please get in touch through the ‘Contact us’ page.

During our investigations, Pyongyang Papers comes across all sorts of entities and individuals involved in sanctioned North Korean activity. Very few are quite as interesting as the individual we have been investigating recently – Ri Chol Nam. As part of our investigation into North Korean ran restaurants in Laos a source informed us that the Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant in Cambodia should be investigated.

Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant

The Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant – Located at 10A, Street 315, 12151, Phnom Penh – is part of the “Pyongyang” chain of restaurants, with around 130 locations worldwide. This chain of restaurants is owned and operated by Haedanghwa Group, an organization belonging to the North Korean government. The Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant is located Phnom Penh, Cambodia with Ri Chol Nam listed as director and chairman of the board of directors before he transferred ownership of his restaurant to a Cambodian individual named Vath Bonna following penalties from the Cambodian Ministry of Labor and the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce. Pyongyang Papers contacted Vath Bonna regarding the restaurant ownership but did not receive a reply.

Since 2017, UN resolutions state that “all member states are required to prohibit, by their nationals or in their territories, the opening, maintenance and operation of all joint ventures or cooperative entities, new or existing, with DPRK entities or individuals, whether or not acting for on behalf of the government of the DPRK.” An article from May 2018 about the closure of three North Korean restaurants in Phnom Penh, including the Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant, stated that all three remained open despite the UN sanctions and when Ri Chol Nam was questioned about where the money the restaurant made was sent, he stated “I’m mortified by your question” … “I cant answer that”. In addition to the closures of DPRK restaurants, the Cambodian government sent a letter to the UN stating that 115 North Korean workers were allegedly deported.

According to journalists, the restaurants are one of several overseas business ventures of Room 39 – a secretive North Korean party an criminal organization that seeks ways to generate money for the country leaders with each of the restaurants chain funneling between $100,000 and $300,000 a year back to North Korea.

Pyongyang Papers have also been informed that Ri has links to the Dragon Spa Foot Leisure Massage Health Center operating next to the Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant. Although company records show the restaurant is no longer on the register, the Dragon Spa appears to still be operating from the same building in Phnom Penh – The signage for the restaurant and the spa sit above he same door. There are few signs of this as a viable business online but there is one review about the Unhasu restaurant from a lady who attended for a massage and felt the business was more like a “whore house”. No wonder the business is not listed anywhere!

The Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant and Dragon Spa Foot Leisure Massage Health Center

Ri Chol Nams other activities

Another interesting aspect to Ri Chol Nam and his activities is that he is also a very well regarded Grand Master in Taekwondo and has links to International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). He has been involved with the ITF Cambodia for almost 2 decades and also acts as the chairman of the Technical Committee for the Asian Taekwondo Federation. One of his students, a gold medal winner at the world championships, posted on social media that Ri Chol Nam was leaving for his “homeland” in March 2022. The post was very personal and showed photos of other students saying goodbye in tears and singing farewell songs. At Pyongyang Papers, we wonder if Ri Chol Nam has i fact gone home or has set up camp in another country, Contact us if you know where he is currently residing.

Strangely, Ri Chol Nam’s tagged social media profile looks very similar to the name of the restaurant that was unregistered 2 years ago – Hasu Un. Strange how he is no longer affiliated to the restaurant but is still using social media account with links to it. Although the paperwork indicates Vath Bonna is the owner, Pyongyang Papers believes Ri is still involved behind the scenes with the Pyongyang Unhasu restaurant. There are also other social media accounts for the restaurant, two of which have been recently active, suggesting it remains in operation and is still making money for its homeland – yet another example of DPRK sanctions breaking.

A recent posting by the Pyongyang Unhasu Restaurant on social media

Whilst conducting our research on Ri Cho Nam, we have found that he also has a contact in the Royal Gendarmerie of Cambodia, a branch of the Royal Cambodian armed forces and within the Cambodian government itself. Keo Remy is the Cambodian ITF Taekwondo Federation chairman but also holds the position as the president of the Cambodian Human Right Commission (CHRC). The irony of Keo Remy’s relationship with Ri Chol Nam isn’t lost on Pyongyang Papers given north Korea’s terrible human rights record.

Keo Remy & Ri Chol Nam at a Taekwondo event

We are unsure how Ri Chol Nam managed to find the time to run a restaurant business, ‘massage parlor’, teach Taekwondo and hold positions within the ITF. Pyongyang Papers will continue to investigate Ri Chol Nam and his connections to uncover more illicit activity that he may be involved in. If you have any information on Ri Chol Nam, please get in touch through the ‘Contact Us‘ page.