Why North Korea is shutting over dozen embassies across world

North Korea’s isolation and international sanctions are said to be reason behind withdrawl of diplomatic missions

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 01 November 2023 15:46 GMT
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<p>North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during his meeting with the Russian president at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region on 13 September</p>

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during his meeting with the Russian president at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region on 13 September

North Korea is shutting down its embassies in a dozen countries – a move that suggests the country is struggling to keep the missions afloat amid global sanctions.

The country will close down its embassies in Spain, Hong Kong and multiple countries in Africa, according to media reports.

It will mark the end of nearly 25 per cent of North Korea’s missions worldwide.

According to North Korean state media outlet KCNA, North Korea’s envoys paid “farewell” visits to the leaders of Angola and Uganda last week. It was after local media in both African countries reported the shutdown of the North‘s embassies there.

The decision came even as Angola and Uganda forged friendly ties with Pyongyang since the 1970s, maintaining military cooperation and providing rare sources of foreign currency such as statue-building projects.

The People’s Communist Party of Spain (PCPE), an opposition party in Spain, confirmed the planned closure of the North Korean Embassy in Madrid, citing North Korean authorities.

It said the North Korean embassy in Italy will take over the responsibility for Spain. It cited challenges arising from US and EU sanctions and indicated that North Korea faced difficulties in establishing mutually beneficial connections with Spanish institutions, as well as commercial and cultural entities.

The North‘s embassy in Madrid was in the spotlight after members of a group seeking the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong-in staged a break-in in 2019, during which they bound and gagged staff before driving off with computers and other devices.

Pyongyang condemned the event as a serious violation of sovereignty and a “terrorist attack” while blaming the US for failing to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the group and refusing to extradite its leader.

The shuttering down of embassies has set the stage for what could be “one of the country’s biggest policy shakeups in decades”, wrote Chad O’Carroll, founder of the North Korea-focused website NK Pro.

It will have implications for diplomatic engagement, humanitarian work in the isolated regime, as well as the ability to generate illicit revenue, he said.

He said more than a dozen missions could be shut down likely because of international sanctions, a trend of Pyongyang’s disengaging globally and the probable weakening of the North Korean economy

South Korea‘s unification ministry said on Tuesday said it reflects North’s financial difficulties in foreign markets due to international sanctions aimed at choking funding for the North‘s nuclear and missile programs.

“They appear to be withdrawing as their foreign currency earning business has stumbled due to the international community’s strengthening of sanctions, making it difficult to maintain the embassies any longer,” the ministry said in a statement.

“This can be a sign of North Korea‘s difficult economic situation, where it is difficult to maintain even minimal diplomatic relations with traditionally friendly countries.”

North Korea has formal ties with 159 countries, but had only 53 diplomatic missions overseas, including three consulates and three representative offices, before it pulled out of Angola and Uganda, according to the ministry.

Additional reporting by agencies

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