Report: Pyongyang left secret agents, smugglers in Malaysia after diplomatic withdrawal

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North Korea neglected to recall its workers allegedly involved in the smuggling of luxury goods and weapons here despite severing ties with Malaysia and withdrawing its diplomatic personnel, according to Daily NK.

Hari Anggara

The news site focused on North Korean news quoted a source as saying on Monday that hundreds of employees affiliated with the ruling Central Committee and secret agents from the Munitions Industry Department (MID) are still in Malaysia.

The report claimed that the first group smuggles luxury goods into North Korea while the MID is involved with arms smuggling.

The secret agents and trade workers have reportedly complained that their missions have become more difficult after the North Korean embassy here was closed, the source said, adding that these agents must keep in constant contact with their handlers in Pyongyang.

The group is now forced to devise and adjust to a new reporting system due to the withdrawal of the North Korean embassy here.

The report alleged that North Korea has long used Malaysia as a transit point for its illegal weapons and luxury goods trade with the Middle East and Africa, and that it was difficult to trace these agents as they used false identities and passports on such missions.

It also added that Malaysian authorities have not paid active attention to these agents and their alleged activities for decades.

Pyongyang is reportedly concerned with the situation here, fearing that Malaysia’s extradition to the United States of Mun Chol Myong, a trader linked with the Reconnaissance General Bureau, could rattle the morale of its remaining workers and agents in the country.

Daily NK said the extradition, believed to be the first on record, has already eroded the confidence of North Korean agents globally in their regime’s ability to protect them.

On March 25, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles over the East Sea. According to the source, the missiles are partially intended to serve as an admonition for the United States’ imprisonment of a North Korean citizen suspected of illegal money laundering and its continuous accusations of human rights violations in North Korea.

However, the missile launch also served as a way to prevent unrest among MID agents overseas.

“News of their country’s successful missile launch may alleviate the confusion of agents struggling overseas and make them feel like their efforts are worthwhile.

“The Korean Central News Agency claimed last Friday that the test launch was successful, as was confidently expected, and that after multiple above-ground engine ignition tests and test launches, the military has confirmed the reliability of the improved solid-fuel engine,” the source said.

On March 19, international news agency Reuters reported North Korea saying that it would sever diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the courts here ruled that Mun Chol Myong could be extradited to the US to face money-laundering charges.

The report quoted North Korea’s state media KCNA reporting the republic’s stance against Malaysia.

The North Korean foreign ministry reportedly labelled the extradition a “nefarious act and unpardonably heavy crime” by Malaysian authorities, who had “offered our citizen as a sacrifice of the US hostile move in defiance of the acknowledged international laws.”

Putrajaya responded critically to North Korea’s decision and expelled the country’s diplomatic personnel and their families within 48 hours.

The Malaysian government also permanently closed its embassy in North Korea, which had already been suspended since 2017.

In 1973, Malaysia became among the first countries in the world to form diplomatic ties with North Korea, but the two countries’ relations soured following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged brother of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, here in 2017. – MMO