Kim, who runs a restaurant in the Seoul suburbs specializing in North Korean cuisine, is one of a handful of defectors making a living in the capitalist South selling goods linked to the communist country of his birth.
"Many North Koreans come here to escape starvation. They do not bring skills or money with them," said Kim, adding few had the business acumen or capital to crack into the market. So many defectors try to open their own business, but they disappear within a year. They don't realize how competitive capitalism is in the South."
Kim, who fled to the South about 16 years ago and soon became a TV personality, now runs a restaurant called Morangak, in the Seoul suburb of Ilsan, with branches across the country. Its best-selling dish is Pyongyang cold noodles at 6,000 won ($6.54), served in a clear, vinegar broth garnished with slices of beef. Kim has also pitched his instant noodles on TV home shopping channels.
Kim weathered a year where he did "little more than chase flies" because his North Korean cuisine was not to the taste of customers in the South. He learned to include more meat, make portions generous and change a way of cooking from the North based on stretching sparse ingredients to that of the South where food is abundant.
His restaurant now serves about 1,000 people a day on weekdays and 3,000 on weekends.