The repatriation of North Korean overseas workers in Oman hasn’t been officially confirmed despite media reports to the contrary, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) told NK News on Friday.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Wednesday that a group of 300 North Korean workers staying in Oman recently returned to North Korea, quoting a report from KOTRA’s in-country office.
According to the RFA report, KOTRA believed the North Korean workers had all left Oman as of December, though the trade organization was not clear on how they came to this conclusion.
But NK News confirmed the KOTRA headquarters in Seoul removed the report from their website after it attracted media attention in South Korea.
“The report wasn’t written based on formal and credible information,” an official at KOTRA, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NK News.
KOTRA added its local office obtained the information from an interview with a local construction company, not from local media or the Omani government.
“(KOTRA is) not in a position to reveal information on the total withdrawal of North Korean workers,” the official added.
“However, we found out the media didn’t double-check with KOTRA’s Oman-based agency [before reporting],” KOTRA said. “We are perplexed.”
KOTRA also declined to provide the original report to NK News, saying information which is collected for purposes other than media coverage can’t be disclosed to reporters, despite already publishing it on their website for a brief period.
South Korean’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Thursday said the ministry was aware of the issue.
“As far as the [South Korean] government understands, Oman took appropriate measures considering the international community’s concern over North Korean overseas workers,” MOFA spokesperson Cho June-hyuck told reporters during a regular news briefing.
But a South Korean government official at MOFA, who also wished to remain anonymous, told NK News on Friday that they were unable to officially confirm whether the North Korean government brought back all their workers from Oman, as the case was diplomatically sensitive.
But the official confirmed the Oman government has made some efforts to expel North Korean workers.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 workers from the DPRK work in foreign countries through Asia, the Middle-East. Europe and Africa.
But the vast majority are currently employed in China and the Russia, according to a report from Marzuki Darusman, the former UN’s Special Rapporteur on North Korean human rights entitled ” Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” submitted last year.
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