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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
The Russian government is seeking to share its experience in policing large sporting events such as the World Cup with North Korea and hopes to increase cooperation in that field, the country’s Minister of Internal Affairs said Tuesday.
Speaking during meetings with officials in Pyongyang on Tuesday, minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said the two countries should intensify exchanges between their respective law enforcement agencies.
Kolokoltsev was reported to have “indicated readiness for the exchange of delegations of sports societies” of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and their DPRK counterparts during a meeting with the head of the DPRK’s Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) Choe Pu Il.
In another meeting with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Nam, the minister again discussed the “large-scale work carried out by Russian law enforcement agencies to ensure security at last year’s World Cup” and plans for “the intensification of Russian-Korean inter-agency contacts, including through law enforcement.”
One of Kolokoltsev’s main objectives during the course of his visit to the DPRK capital is to improve coordination between the ministries “to provide public order in our countries, including during business visits and tourist trips,” Russia’s TASS News Agency reported from Pyongyang.
It is unclear if there are specific sporting events planned to be held in North Korea that would require enhanced assistance on security, though the comments do echo similar statements in recent months regarding the handling of increased tourism to the DPRK.
Law enforcement, including for large events, was the “primary topic of conversation” in discussions during an MPS delegation visit to Moscow last December led by Councilor Ri Song Chol.
The Russian embassy in Pyongyang reported in January that their experience shared during the meetings over policing the World Cup proved to be “of serious practical interest for the DPRK, where large-scale construction of a number of large tourist complexes is underway designed to receive foreign guests.”
The Wonsan-Kalma tourist resort on North Korea’s east coast, expected to be heavily promoted to foreign tourists, has seen rapid progress in recent months as it approaches its official October 2019 deadline for completion.
There is also the prospect of an inter-Korean joint hosting of the 2032 summer Olympic Games, for which a bid is in the works – though a winner is not set to be announced until 2025.
In Pyongyang on Tuesday, Kolokoltsev also said coordination between the two countries’ law enforcement agencies would work to improve “effective interaction, supported by specific facts of the search and extradition of criminals,” according to the MVD.
Russian President Vladimir Putin just last month ratified an agreement signed in December 2017, which says any “person sentenced to imprisonment in the territory of one of the parties may be transferred to the territory of the other party to serve the sentence in the state of his citizenship (or permanent residence if such person is stateless).”
But it is also likely the topic of North Korean laborers in Russia was also discussed, with Head of the General Directorate for Migration under the MVD Valentina Kazakova joining Kolokoltsev as part of the delegation.
Indeed, the MVD reported that Kolokoltsev and Choe Pu Il discussed the results of recent meetings over “resolving issues of temporary labor activity of citizens in the territory of our states, during which ways for further cooperation were outlined.”
Under UN Security Council Resolution 2397 passed in late 2017, all North Korean workers abroad must be sent home by December 22 this year.
Also discussed during meetings in Pyongyang on Tuesday, according to the MVD, were “intentions to promote cooperation in various areas not affected by international sanctions.”
The two countries have repeatedly raised in recent months the primary joint projects of a new cross-border road bridge and a “trading house” in Vladivostok to sell North Korean goods in rubles.
Plans for the bridge appear to be still in the early stages, however, with the 9th DPRK-Russian Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) for Cooperation in Trade, Economics, Science, and Technology held in Moscow in March failing to produce anticipated concrete agreements on the next steps of its development.
The trading house, on the other hand, already has a preliminary website set up with the help of the Vladivostok-based Association of Korean Organizations in Primorsky Krai (AKORP), whose representatives said in February may be launched “soon.”
In a sign of further planned contacts this year as Russia and the DPRK celebrate the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of the DPRK-Russia agreement on economic and cultural cooperation, Kolokoltsev in his meeting with Kim Yong Nam on Tuesday also “welcomed the intention of the DPRK leadership to send representatives to participate in major international events to be held in Russia this year.”
These include the upcoming 8th Moscow Conference on International Security hosted by the Russian Ministry of Defence to be held from April 23-25, the 10th International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues to be held in the central Russian city of Ufa in June, and the 5th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.
There are also signs that Kim Jong Un is likely to finally make his first visit to Russia in the coming months, though neither side is yet to release formal details on the matter.
Kolokoltsev is expected to depart Pyongyang on Wednesday.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs