바로가기 메뉴
본문 바로가기
주메뉴 바로가기
Comprehensive Consultation Call Center for North Korean Defectors 1577-6635
SUCCESS STORY
  • print
I gave up on ‘shutting down’ because of a customer’s comment: “You have us.”
NKRF Date 2021-11-12 Hit 308

 


I gave up on ‘shutting down’ because of a customer’s comment: “You have us.”


 



 
Jeon (pancake) and makgeolli (rice wine) are the main dishes of ‘Nadeulmok Jeon House (restaurant)’. There are over 10 kinds of jeon, from assorted jeon, pollack jeon, potato jeon, skate jeon, seafood pajeon, red pepper perilla leaf jeon, meat jeon, kimchi jeon, leek jeon, and tofu, pumpkin, to sausage jeon.
The boss, Lee Yu-ri, in a kitchen of less than two pyeong (6.6 ㎡), cooks the jeon with skill, alternating both hands. Occasionally, she lowers her back to check whether the gas fire is adequate, and when the jeon turns golden brown, she moves and arranges them on a larger plate. Judging from her skills, she seems like a veteran boss, but this is only her third year of running the jeon house.

Working as a nursing assistant for 5 years
Ms. Lee left Hanawon 9 years ago. Like everyone else, she thought about her career path and chose to become a nursing assistant. A year later, she obtained her nursing assistant license and got a job at a nearby hospital. Around that time, she also got married and was living an ordinary life when an unexpected difficulty arose. The obstetrics and gynecology department she worked for required her to work a day-night shift, but she couldn’t take care of her young son at night. Eventually, she had move to a nursing home where she could work only during the day.
“Working as a nursing assistant in a nursing home, I often had to watch over the death of an elderly person. If the deceased's family lived far away, even if we contacted them, their arrival would be delayed. In the meantime, as I had to spend the last moments with the elderly person instead of their family, my heart broke more than being filled with fear. As these things happened repeatedly, my body just lost energy and I became mentally exhausted. In the end, I worked at the nursing home for 2 years then ended up leaving due to health issues.”
She confessed frankly that while working as a nursing assistant for five years, she had no choice but to mind the people around her because of her status as a North Korean refugee. “Because of the way I speak, patients would ask what country I was from, and people I worked with would watch TV and ask if North Korea really is hard to live in, just like they saw on TV. Every time that would happen, I would lose my confidence and feel smaller, even though I didn’t do anything wrong, but just because I kept realizing that ‘I really am from a poor country’.”



Becoming the boss of a famous restaurant overnight
While working as a nursing assistant, she worked part-time at a restaurant after work for 2 years. This sparked her interest in cooking and running a restaurant. When she was considering quitting her nursing assistant job and considering self-employment, she saw an announcement that ‘Nadeulmok Jeon House’ was hiring an employee.
‘Nadeulmok Jeon House’ is a famous restaurant in Uijeongbu. From the day of the interview, Ms. Lee worked in the kitchen, not the hall. At first, she couldn’t control the fire properly so would burn the jeon up, and there was also a time when customers complained because they were served an unripe pumpkin jeon. Then one day, the boss said, “I have to quit running the restaurant for personal reasons. Why don’t you try running the restaurant?” “I was afraid of running a restaurant out of the blue because I lacked experience. Moreover, since it was a famous restaurant, I was terrified of what would happen if its business was disrupted because of the owner and taste of the food changing.”
Fortunately, since the entire Jeon House mainly used vegetables for its ingredients, the cost of ingredients was low, and because the price of the food was cheap enough for anyone to enjoy, she got the courage to take on the challenge. She decided to run the Jeon House as she remembered eating the delicious jijim (Korean pancake) her mother used to make when she lived in North Korea.

Food is a promise to customers
Well begun is half done, and perhaps due to the reputation of ‘Nadeulmok Jeon House’ being a famous restaurant, customers continued to flow in, and she received praise that the food’s taste didn’t change. She boldly removed the food on the old menu that she was not confident about, and through repeated practice, she developed and added her own menu selection that she was confident with.
The taste of food in South and North Korea is definitely different. South Korean food is rich in seasoning, sweet and spicy, while North Korean food is salty and has a clean taste. While running the Jeon House, she developed a new menu that combined the taste of North and South Korean food. Namely, these were leek perilla leaf jeon, red pepper jeon, and potato jeon. The potato jeon is made in North Korean style, with plenty of potato starch and added salt. 
Running the restaurant went smoothly in the beginning. However, due to the prolonged COVID-19 situation, the restaurant, which was once crowded with customers until late at night, was quiet to the point that the sound of the door opening was strange. “One day, a customer came to eat, and it had been a while. The customer comforted me by saying, “Don’t take it so hard,” and “You have us”. I felt encouraged by those words, and so I decided that I wouldn’t close down.” 
The rent was covered by the government subsidy for small business owners, and as it was impossible to pay salaries, she had no choice but to let her staff go with tears in her eyes. Even during such difficult times, the reason she was able to run the empty restaurant alone was to keep her promise to customers, like the one who comforted her and encouraged her by eating the jeon with joy.
Fortunately, the number of customers has gradually increased since the second half of last year. Makgeolli with a new taste, suitable for all ages and genders of customers visiting the restaurant, was prepared, and the types of jeon were increased to fit the Jeon House, creating jeons that suit the taste of men and women of all ages.

The important thing in running a restaurant is following principles
She emphasized that the most important thing in running a restaurant is strictly following principles. ‘Nadeulmok Jeon House’ opens at 3pm, and the day’s ingredients are purchased directly from the market on the day. Next, services are provided according to set standards, rather than arbitrarily providing them.
Finally, notices about the restaurant’s closing days are posted. By notifying the closing days in advance, the inconvenience for customers is reduced. Ms. Lee Yu-ri believes that accurate information about restaurant operations, such as opening hours, closing times, and holidays, is important in steadily attracting customers.
She shared that the location of the restaurant, menu selection, and careful preparation of the menu are aspects that should not be missed when preparing for the opening of a restaurant. “If you make and sell food half-heartedly, you may get an income for the day initially, but that will never give you any guarantees about the future”.
Ms. Lee works 365 days a year at the restaurant. Rain or shine, guests are greeted with joy at the same place, and served with the best food that comes from the bottom of her heart. Over time, customers have started to feel like family.
Food that our family eats, making customers want to come back for its taste and generosity, even if our immediate profits are less! This is the secret of the continuity of ‘Nadeulmok Jeon House’.



  

Jeon (pancake) and makgeolli (rice wine) are the main dishes of ‘Nadeulmok Jeon House (restaurant)’. There are over 10 kinds of jeon, from assorted jeon, pollack jeon, potato jeon, skate jeon, seafood pajeon, red pepper perilla leaf jeon, meat jeon, kimchi jeon, leek jeon, and tofu, pumpkin, to sausage jeon.

The boss, Lee Yu-ri, in a kitchen of less than two pyeong (6.6 ㎡), cooks the jeon with skill, alternating both hands. Occasionally, she lowers her back to check whether the gas fire is adequate, and when the jeon turns golden brown, she moves and arranges them on a larger plate. Judging from her skills, she seems like a veteran boss, but this is only her third year of running the jeon house.