North Korea, facing cash crisis, closed many embassies around the world.

The North Korean flag is raised at the North Korean consular office in Dandong, Liaoning province, China, on April 20, 2021.  Photo taken on April 20, 2021.—Reuters
The North Korean flag is raised at the North Korean consular office in Dandong, Liaoning province, China, on April 20, 2021. Photo taken on April 20, 2021.—Reuters

North Korea has initiated the closure of about a dozen embassies around the world, including Spain, Hong Kong and various African countries.

Reports and analysts suggest that about a quarter of North Korea’s global diplomatic missions could be affected.

The move is seen as a result of the economic challenges faced by the isolated nation due to international sanctions. South Korea’s Unification Ministry commented on North Korea’s embassy closures, indicating that these actions reflect the country’s struggle to generate income abroad.

North Korean state media, KCNA, reported that the country’s ambassadors recently made “farewell” visits to leaders in Angola and Uganda. Local media in these African countries confirmed the closure of North Korean embassies.

Both Angola and Uganda have maintained friendly relations with North Korea since the 1970s, engaging in military cooperation and foreign exchange providing projects, such as statue building initiatives.

According to NK Pro founder Chad O’Carroll, the closure of embassies could signal a significant shift in North Korea’s foreign policy, with potential consequences for diplomatic engagement, humanitarian efforts within the country, and the ability to generate revenue through illegal means. But may fall. , a North Korea-focused website.

Challenges such as international sanctions, North Korea’s tendency to be isolated on the global stage, and the country’s potential economic weakness likely contributed to the closure of more than a dozen diplomatic missions.

The South Korean Unification Ministry, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, said the withdrawal was the result of the impact of international sanctions, which aim to cut off funding for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“They appear to be in retreat as their foreign exchange earning business has faltered due to the tightening of sanctions by the international community, making it difficult for the embassies to sustain any longer,” the ministry said.

The action reflects North Korea’s challenging economic situation, which hinders it from maintaining even minimal diplomatic relations with traditionally friendly countries.

According to the ministry, North Korea has formal relations with 159 countries, but until the recent closures in Angola and Uganda, it had 53 diplomatic missions abroad, including three consulates and three representative offices. Additionally, North Korea is expected to close its embassy in Spain, leaving its mission in Italy to handle the neighboring country’s affairs.

In particular, the North Korean embassy in Madrid previously attracted attention when it was vandalized in 2019 by a group demanding the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. During this incident, embassy staff were restrained, and computers and other equipment were stolen.

Pyongyang described it as “a serious violation of sovereignty and a terrorist attack” and accused the United States of inadequately investigating the group and refusing to extradite its leader.

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