12 states have closed their diplomatic missions in the DPRK amid a difficult situation in the republic caused by the authorities’ struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, there are only nine ambassadors and four chargé d’affaires working in Pyongyang, and there is no humanitarian personnel left in North Korea. At the same time, the Russian embassy in the republic continues to function, which experts explain by the favorable position of the diplomatic mission. Due to a shortage of goods and medicines, the embassies of 12 states stopped their work in North Korea. According to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang,
there are no representatives of international humanitarian organizations left in the DPRK either.
“Now it is already difficult to say what kind of collective departure of the diplomatic missions from the DPRK was. One thing is clear – unfortunately, it will not be the last, the exodus of foreigners from here will continue. Although there are now almost none of them left here – only less than 290 people. Those leaving the Korean capital can be understood – not everyone can withstand total restrictions unprecedented in their severity, an acute shortage of necessary goods, including medicines, and the inability to solve health problems, ”the Russian diplomatic mission said on Facebook.
According to the embassy, on March 18, 38 foreign citizens left the DPRK, and locks appeared on the gates of the missions of Great Britain, Venezuela, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, and France.
Currently, only nine foreign ambassadors and four chargé d’affaires remain in North Korea – in most diplomatic missions, staff has been reduced to a minimum.
At the same time, the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang continues to perform all its functions in full, while maintaining the efficiency of the team. “Of course, we also have a hard time, there are a lot of problems, several families were forced to interrupt business trips for various reasons,” the Russian diplomatic mission stressed.
Alexander Zhebin, head of the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with TOPNEWS that emergency measures have been taken in the DPRK in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, they are primarily aimed at preventing the penetration of COVID-19 into the country. The borders are actually closed, almost completely stopped any communication with neighboring countries – Russia and China.
“These measures are explained by the fact that the equipment of the health care system in North Korea with modern technology, which is needed to treat the coronavirus, leaves much to be desired, especially in the provinces. Probably, the DPRK authorities feared that if there was a widespread penetration of the virus, they would not be able to cope with it, ”the expert explained.
Difficulties of diplomacy
In addition to the closure of borders and severe restrictions on communication with other states, a high alert regime has been in effect in the DPRK capital since November last year. For example, in Pyongyang, the work of catering establishments has been suspended and the movement of people has been restricted.
From the point of view of Konstantin Asmolov, senior researcher at the Center for Korean Studies, IFES RAS, considering the situation around the exodus of foreign diplomats from the DPRK, it should be borne in mind that only the diplomatic missions of Russia and China have a normal complex of embassy buildings with a large territory in North Korea. This is precisely its own territory, which is more or less adapted to an autonomous existence.
“All other diplomats live in a large diplomatic condominium and have a much worse regime of contacts with the local population, including access to the city. Therefore, a significant part of the diplomatic missions consists of four or five people who are simply in the DPRK in the “so that they were” regime. After North Korea closed its borders, the country did experience a crisis of goods of foreign origin, and this affected foreign diplomats who are experiencing problems with the ability to purchase goods in Korean stores, ”said a TOPNEWS expert.
For representatives of the Russian diplomatic mission, there are some indulgences here, Asmolov continued, while the rest of the diplomats found themselves in a difficult position, as they mainly bought foreign products in a specialized store for diplomats.
“Against the background of this situation, diplomats from North Korea fled in groups, especially those who are in the country“ for furniture ”- they decided to wait out the pandemic somewhere else.
Here you need to understand that the borders of the DPRK are almost completely closed and a more or less standard way is a bus to China, which comes at a certain time and picks up everyone. However, upon arrival in China, they will have two weeks of quarantine in rather difficult Chinese conditions, ”the expert noted. Departure of Russians
However, despite the more or less good position of the Russian diplomatic mission in the DPRK, diplomats from Russia also face a number of difficulties. According to Alexander Zhebin, Russian diplomats, their foreign colleagues, and employees of international organizations have been unable to replace personnel who have completed their terms for a long time.
“The North Koreans, fearing that they will not be able to cope with the pandemic, have focused on very tough measures to neutralize the threat. In general, in the conditions of the DPRK, there is a certain chance for the success of such an approach, since the country borders on only three states, with two of which the border goes along the river, and a demilitarized zone separates them from South Korea, ”the expert said.
In late February, a number of Russian diplomats left the DPRK on a railcar, with its help crossing the border between Russia and North Korea. At the embassy, the departure of diplomats was called a planned event. Actually, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova confirmed to Gazeta.Ru that the departure of the members of the Russian diplomatic mission was not connected with the difficult situation in the DPRK.
According to Konstantin Asmolov, diplomats used this method because the only alternative is to travel by bus to China, which again implies a strict two-week quarantine before being sent home.
“As far as I know, some of our diplomats had some medical problems, so the situation was extraordinary, which Russia was able to solve thanks to a good level of development of relations with North Korea,” the expert emphasized.