Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - North Korean waitress missing



North Korean waitress missing

Pyongyang Friendship restaurant in Siem Reap, where a North Korean waitress has gone missing
Pyongyang Friendship restaurant in Siem Reap, where a North Korean waitress has gone missing. Thik Kaliyann

North Korean waitress missing

A North Korean national working at a Siem Reap restaurant has been missing since Tuesday, police said yesterday, though foul play isn’t suspected, and South Korean and Cambodian officials say that they have received no word of a North Korean wishing to defect.

Chao Mao Vireak, chief of immigration police in Siem Reap said yesterday that on Wednesday a representative of Pyongyang Friendship restaurant in Svay Dangkum commune filed a missing-persons report for 21-year-old waitress Ri Suhyang, who was last seen on Tuesday around 9:30am.

“She told the boss that she was going out for a while, but then disappeared,” Mao Vireak said. “She left by herself, and didn’t even bring her iPhone 4 with her.”

Police are now disseminating word of the disappearance to every police station in the province, he continued, and providing photos of Ri and copies of her passport, which was being held by her employer.

“We also reported it to the national general commissariat,” Mao Vireak said. “We are worried about her safety, and investigating this case carefully.”

However, he added, “I can say that it’s not abduction,” noting that Ri may have been involved with a man.

A man at Pyongyang Friendship restaurant who identified himself as the manager yesterday confirmed Ri’s disappearance, but declined to comment further, and it remains unclear whether Pyongyang Friendship is directly linked to the North Korean government or its global chain of Pyongyang Traditional Restaurants.

A restaurant employee who answered the phone yesterday evening said the establishment was owned by a “North Korean company”, though the pariah state is known to maintain control of almost all enterprise.

North Koreans have attempted to defect in Cambodia in the past, as in 2004, when seven asylum seekers were arrested here. Amid international pressure, the asylum seekers were ultimately sent to South Korea, despite Cambodia’s historically cosy relationship with the hermit kingdom.

It remained unclear yesterday as to whether Ri’s disappearance could have been a defection. An official with the South Korean Embassy said he had no knowledge of the case and refused to comment further.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, likewise, said he had no idea as to whether the government had been approached for asylum, and referred all questions about the protocols regarding such a situation to the Ministry of Interior.

Neither a spokesman for the ministry nor the North Korean Embassy could be reached yesterday. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE AND THIK KALIYANN

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting