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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korea and Malaysia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) focused on “culture, arts and heritage,” North Korean state media said on Thursday, renewing and building upon a previous agreement from 2002.
The agreement is “still in the very early stages,” Malaysia’s envoy to the DPRK, Ambassador Mohammad Nizan Bin Mohammad, told NK News by telephone on Friday, but is intended to “enhance the bilateral relations between the two countries, in this aspect of cultural and arts-related issues.”
Cooperation is planned to focus on areas related to: “museums, archives, libraries, arts or heritage, or even cultural institutions between the two countries,” the Ambassador said.
Despite the agreement, media reports in January indicated the Malaysian government had decided to stop allowing North Korean state airline Air Koryo access to the country, citing implementation of recent UN Security Council sanctions.
“We are complying with those UN resolutions themselves, so the flights have been stopped,” the Ambassador said. No flights had taken place since 2014, he added.
“The current international situation is not that conducive (for cooperation), but still we have to have a good framework for us to move forward…in this area,” he said on the logic of the agreement. “They want to learn something from the Malaysian side, in cultural related matters.”
The MOU was signed between North Korea’s foreign cultural committee and Malaysia’s tourism and culture ministry, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, without revealing the specifics.
Exchanges between Malaysia and the DPRK are quite common.
Last December, 18 North Korean companies participated in the 13th Malaysia International Branding Showcase, CEO of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp Datuk Dzulkifli Mahmud told local media.
“North Korea is now looking at using Malaysia as a gateway to South-East Asian markets as it finds the country business-friendly with pro-business policies,” he told the Star Online.
In addition, last July a North Korean public health delegation visited Kuala Lumpur, while at least two DPRK foreign ministry staffers took part in track two diplomacy with American participants also held in the city last March.
This article was updated at 3.03PM KT to correct the subject of the 2002 agreement. The Malaysian embassy stated the KCNA report of the subject was incorrect.
This article was updated at 1.42PM KT to include a fix to a quote.
Main picture: Wikimedia Commons