Malaysiakini KiniGuide

A brief look at M'sia-North Korea diplomatic ties

KiniGuide  |  Published:  |  Modified:

KINIGUIDE It was reported yesterday that Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was killed at KL International Airport 2 (KLIA2).

Amidst speculation about the assassination and the identities of the alleged assassins, questions about the bilateral ties between Malaysia and North Korea have arisen.

Malaysia, however, has traditionally enjoyed warm ties with North Korea, which tends toward isolationism in its foreign policies.

When did North Korea and Malaysia first establish diplomatic ties?

Diplomatic relations between the two countries was first established in June 1973, during a time when North Korea was expanding its diplomatic outreach.

During the 1970s, North Korea was working on building ties with Africa and Asia, and began reaching out to the West in an effort to develop its economy, according to a 2016 issue brief on the country's diplomatic relations by Daniel Wertz, JJ Oh and Kim In-sung.

In 2003, the North Korean embassy opened in Malaysia, where it is now headed by ambassador Kang Chol.

A year later, Malaysia established its embassy in Pyongyang, where our ambassador to North Korea is currently Mohammad Nizan Mohammad.

In 2013, Kang's predecessor Jang Yong-chol was recalled to Pyongyang and assassinated. Jang was Jong-nam's cousin.

As of August 2016, the Malaysian embassy is one of only 24 foreign embassies in Pyongyang, while Malaysia is one of 47 countries hosting North Korean embassies.

Can Malaysians visit North Korea without a travel visa?

According to news reports, Malaysia became the first country to be able to visit North Korea without a visa in 2009.

"It is the only country whose people can come to visit without a visa.

"We warmly welcome Malaysians to Pyongyang," said Korea International Travel company president Jo Su-gyu back then.

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