April 19, 2024

How North Korea’s diplomats navigate privilege and peril abroad

Staff at overseas missions enjoy more freedom than compatriots back home but must turn to illicit activities to survive

North Korea has finally inched toward accepting that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, opening the country to citizens marooned abroad for nearly four years. At the same time, Pyongyang is in the process of rethinking its diplomatic activities and has closed at least nine overseas missions in recent months.

One result of these changes is that many DPRK diplomats are headed back to Pyongyang after years of working abroad. These include Ji Jae Ryong, the former ambassador to China; Ri Guen, the regime’s envoy in Poland; and reportedly Han Tae Song, the ambassador to Switzerland. 

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