North Korean diplomats from the Pyongyang embassy who had just been expelled from Malaysia due to a rift in diplomatic relations could face sanctions for the first time the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US, sources news in China told RFA.
Pyongyang on Friday cut ties with Malaysia and closed its embassy in Kuala Lumpur following the extradition of businessman Mun Chol Myong to Washington, where he faced six charges of money laundering.
Malaysia then ordered North Korean diplomats to give the order in 48 hours and accused Pyongyang of trying to interfere in their judicial system, where Mun lost a two-year battle to halt. your extradition.
“As soon as I heard the report that the Malaysian government arrested and delivered a Korean businessman … to the US, the first thing that worried me was the safety of the embassy officials stationed there,” North Korean trade officials in Beijing, China told RFA’s Korean Service on Monday.
“Wherever it happens, if any such incident happens, the embassy officials stationed in that area will be held accountable,” the source asked for anonymity for security reasons. security said.
The source said the case was particularly unusual because Mun is currently under US containment, which the source calls an “enemy nation”.
The source said that Mun could be an important fundraiser for the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party. He did not give any basis for his claim.
“This incident is political in that it weakens its power Highest dignity outside. Immediately after the incident, the leaders in Pyongyang cut diplomatic relations with Malaysia, ”the source said, using a term of respect to refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The embassy staff were notified to leave Malaysia within 48 hours. They were immediately on their way home as if they were chased away, ”the source said.
North Korean trade officials in China say they are worried about what might happen to the embassy’s top officials, such as Chargé D’affaires Kim Yu Song, according to the source.
The source said: “There is a lot of concern that they might be fired or even put in political prison for undermining the power of the highest Dignity and the country.
Another North Korean trade officer, in China’s northeast, told RFA on Tuesday that news of Mun’s extradition had “shocked” other foreign officials, claiming that some of them may have been assigned to foreign currency for the party.
“The US is known to be quick to identify and monitor the flow of illegal funds around the world. In China, North Korean workers are earning foreign currency and transacting with large sums of money, “said a second source, who requested anonymity.
The second source said: “In many cases, they violated economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States, so many people worry that they could be carried out by the United States one day. somehow.
A second source said workers stationed abroad felt they were in an unfair situation – ordered by the North Korean authorities to do illegal things to earn foreign currency.
“But if any of them are deported for violating international sanctions, the authorities in North Korea will hold their own responsibility and punish them.”
North Korea and Malaysia established diplomatic relations in 1973 and with a visa-free agreement in effect, Malaysia became the main destination for Pyongyang to send commercial workers for foreign currency over the years. But relationships have become strained since the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half brother Kim Jong Nam at an airport in Kuala Lumpur.
Punishment for what the North Korean government sees as shame on the world stage is common.
After the 2016 defection of Thae Yong Ho, the deputy Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom, South Korea JoongAng Ilbo The newspaper reported that Pyongyang had blamed its deputy foreign minister, Kung Sok Ung, for removing him from his position and exiled him and his family to a rural area.
Hyemin Son’s Report to RFA’s Korea Service. Translation by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.