European nations eye reopening NK embassies post-pandemic

European nations eye reopening North Korea embassies post-pandemic

/ 05:13 PM February 28, 2024

European nations eye reopening North Korea embassies post-pandemic

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Ministry of National Defense on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang, North Korea in this picture released on February 9, 2024 by the Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via REUTERS

SEOUL/BERLIN — A German delegation visited the North Korean capital of Pyongyang for the first time since its embassy was shuttered during the pandemic, as other European countries prepare for an anticipated return.

A team from the German Federal Foreign Office was currently in Pyongyang on a technical inspection trip, a foreign office spokesperson told Reuters.


“It is inspecting the site of the German embassy over a couple of days,” the spokesperson said, noting there was still no decision on reopening the embassy, which was closed in March 2020.


READ: COVID-19 in North Korea: Five things to know

Many embassies closed in Pyongyang because they were unable to rotate staff or ship supplies during the COVID-19 crisis.

Already under authoritarian control, North Korea imposed some of the world’s strictest pandemic measures, including near-total travel bans and large-scale border walls, and has only recently begun easing international restrictions.

Britain, which closed its embassy and pulled all diplomatic staff from North Korea in May 2020, was also seeking to send a team, a Foreign Office spokesperson told Reuters.

“We are pleased that some diplomats are returning to Pyongyang and welcome DPRK moves to reopen the border,” the spokesperson said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We are in discussions with the DPRK government through its Embassy in London about arrangements for a visit soon by a UK technical-diplomatic team.”


Britain called on North Korea to allow the international community, including all diplomats and UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs, to enter the country, the spokesperson added.

READ: North Korea declares victory over COVID-19, reveals Kim suffered fever

Peter Semneby, Sweden’s special envoy for the Korean

Peninsula, told Reuters that there was some progress towards the eventual return of Swedish diplomats to Pyongyang, but declined to elaborate citing the sensitivity of the discussions.

“There is some movement and we hope that we can reestablish our embassy relatively soon,” he said.

One diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that the shuttered facilities would need to be swept for listening devices, as well as cleared of insects and repaired after years of closure.

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According to NK Pro, a Seoul-based website research that tracks North Korea, as of January 2023 nine countries had functioning embassies in Pyongyang, but only China, Russia, Mongolia, and Cuba have been allowed rotate staff at their embassies since last year.

TAGS: Diplomacy, Europe, North Korea

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