North Korea today confirmed media reports that it has decided to close its embassies in some countries. According to South Korea, the likely reason is the economic problems of the DPRK, which faces international sanctions over its nuclear and missile weapons programs. North Korean embassies in various African countries, including Uganda and Angola, or diplomatic missions in Spain and Hong Kong should close, the AP agency wrote.
According to data from the South Korean government, North Korea maintains diplomatic relations with more than 150 countries of the world, but it only has about 50 embassies abroad, including in Prague.
The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no information or indications regarding the possible closure of the North Korean embassy. “The representative office of the DPRK operates as standard, recently, for example, after the covid break, it organized a national holiday celebration,” Mariana Wernerová from the Department of Communications of the Černín Palace told ČTK today.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said today that embassy closures are routine. “In response to changes on the foreign scene and in accordance with the national interests of the country, we close or open diplomatic missions,” the ministry wrote.
The AP agency reported that North Korean diplomatic missions abroad often conduct illegal activities, such as smuggling to earn money to operate and send foreign currency back home. Due to international sanctions, however, it is increasingly difficult for them to obtain foreign currency, AP writes.
According to AFP, North Korea last closed its embassies on a large scale in the late 1990s, when it was dealing with a famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
In recent years, the DPRK’s economy has been hit by severe restrictions related to the covid-19 pandemic, as well as continued mismanagement. But observers say there are no visible signs of a humanitarian crisis and social chaos in the country that would threaten the rule of dictator Kim Jong-un.