North Korean diplomatic staff, dependents leave for home


ALL North Korean diplomatic staff and their dependents in Malaysia left for home yesterday following Pyongyang’s decision last Friday to sever ties with Kuala Lumpur (KL).

The 33 people, including several children, came to the KL International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang at about 11.45am.

They were scheduled to fly off on Shanghai Airlines Flight FM886 to Pudong in China at 4.10pm and then transit in Beijing before continuing their journey to their home country.

At KLIA, they were escorted by police to the check-in counter for the departure procedure, which took about an hour.

The Charge d’Affaires of the North Korean Embassy Kim Yu-song and Counsellor Song Ki-chol were seen assisting the other embassy staff and their families to check in before all of them proceeded via the VIP lane.

Throughout the departure pro-cess, they were assisted by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd staff. The police kept media personnel at a safe distance to accord them privacy.

The embassy staff and their dependents, all wearing face masks, kept to themselves and went about with the check-in procedure without giving any attention to the large group of reporters and camera crew that had gathered at the airport.

Following North Korea’s decision to break off diplomatic relations with Malaysia, Wisma Putra, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, issued instructions for the embassy staff and their dependents to leave KL within 48 hours.

Yesterday, at about 11am, reporters gathered at the North Korean Embassy in Jalan Batai, Bukit Damansara, saw the staff and their dependents leaving the premises in a chartered bus, an embassy car and several private vehicles.

Charge d’Affaires Kim alighted from the embassy car and spoke to the reporters, expressing disappointment that they had to leave Malaysia.

Pyongyang announced last Friday that it was severing diplomatic relations with Malaysia after a Malaysian court earlier this month ruled that a North Korean businessman could be extradited to the US to face money laundering charges.

Wisma Putra in a statement on the same day said it deeply regret- ted North Korea’s decision and that, in turn, Malaysia will close its Pyongyang embassy, the operations of which were suspended in 2017.

In a statement yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia had expelled all North Korean diplomats in keeping with the government’s decision on March 19, which was carried out in conformity with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.

He described North Korea’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Malaysia as “utterly irresponsible”. “The action by the Government of Malaysia has become a necessity in order to protect Malaysia’s sovereignty and safeguard our national interest.

“This action is a reminder that Malaysia shall never tolerate any attempt to meddle in our internal affairs and judiciary, disrespect our governance system, and constantly create unnecessary tensions in defiance of the rules-based international order,” he said.

Malaysia and North Korea established ties way back in 1973. The relations saw notable achievements in the diplomatic and trade fronts up to 2017 when Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was assassinated in Malaysia. — Bernama