Malaysia–North Korea relations

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Malaysia–North Korea relations
Map indicating locations of Malaysia and North Korea


North Korea

Malaysia–North Korea relations (Korean: 말레이시아–조선민주주의인민공화국 관계 ; Malay: Hubungan Malaysia–Korea Utara) refers to foreign relations between Malaysia and North Korea. Malaysia has an embassy in Pyongyang,[1] and North Korea has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur.[2]

Relations between the two countries were starting to deteriorate since 2017 in the aftermath of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia.[3]


Relations between the two countries started on 30 June 1973.[4] This was part of a broader campaign by North Korea to enhance its ties with the developing world.[5]

The North Korean embassy was opened in Kuala Lumpur in 2003 along with the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang.[6] Relations between both countries improved and in 2009, Malaysia became the first country whose citizens were able to travel to North Korea without a visa.[7] In 2013, the supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un received an honorary doctorate from HELP University, a Malaysian university.[8][9]

Economic and cultural relations[edit]

North Korea imports refined oil, natural rubber and palm oil from Malaysia.[10] Malaysia imports iron and steel products from North Korea.[11] In 2017, there were 300 North Koreans working in the coal mining industry in Sarawak state of Malaysia.[6]

In 2011, Malaysia's Bernama News Agency reported that the two countries will enhance co-operation in information-related areas.[12] In 2017, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding in the exchange of culture.[13]

North Korea has been working together with Malaysia's tourism sector to promote travel to North Korea. Since 2001, more than 1,000 Malaysians have visited North Korea.[7] In 2011, North Korea opened an air route to Malaysia to attract more tourists from the country.[14] In early January 2017, the Malaysian government had decided to stop allowing North Korean state airline Air Koryo access to the country following the implementation of recent United Nations Security Council sanctions due to pressure from the United States.[13][15][16]

Assassination of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia[edit]

On 13 February 2017, Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un's half-brother, was killed in Malaysia in a presumed assassination. This resulted in a rapid escalation of tensions.

The Malaysian authorities conducted an autopsy which resulted in opposition from North Korea.[17] The North Korean government said that it will oppose any results of the findings, claiming that it was conducted on its citizen without their permission, and that they will take the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It also accused Malaysia of colluding with its enemies.[18] The Malaysian side argued that any such incidents happening on a country's soil are subject to that country's laws, and stressed the need to find the cause of death and confirm the identity of the deceased.[19][20][21] After North Korean ambassador Kang Chol's comments, he was summoned by the Malaysian Foreign affairs ministry on 20 February, while the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea had also been recalled.[22]

Following the revelation that Kim's death was the result of the VX nerve agent, a nerve agent classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 and outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, Malaysia threatened the expulsion of the North Korean ambassador to Malaysia, referring to his claims of collusion as "delusional".[23] The North Korean government then dispatched a high-level delegation to Malaysia.[24]

Beginning on 6 March, Malaysia cancelled the visa-free entry for North Koreans, citing "security issues" following the murder incident.[25] On 4 March, the North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was declared a persona non grata and expelled for the next 48 hours,[26] to which North Korea reacted in kind.[27] North Korean authorities also reacted on 7 March by forbidding all Malaysian citizens in North Korea from entering and leaving the country.[28] Malaysian authorities retaliated by forbidding North Korean citizens from entering and leaving Malaysia.[29][30]

On 30 March, after negotiations between both sides to end their dispute, all stranded Malaysians in North Korea and North Koreans in Malaysia were allowed to return to their respective countries with a recent receipt of a letter from the deceased's family requesting the remains of Kim's be returned to his country following the completion of further autopsy.[31]

Shortly after the deal, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the Government of Malaysia had no intention to cut diplomatic ties with North Korea and considers the hostage crisis over, hoping that North Korea will never resort to unlawful action and going against international law again for holding up hostages.[32][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official Website of Embassy of Malaysia, Pyongyang". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Malaysia expels North Korea ambassador over Kim murder". Agence France-Presse. New Vision. 5 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  4. ^ "DPRK Diplomatic Relations". The National Committee on North Korea. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Parameswaran, Prashanth (23 February 2017). "The Myth of a North Korea-Malaysia Special Relationship". The Diplomat. 
  6. ^ a b G. Surach (15 February 2017). "Malaysia-North Korean ties low-key but stable since 1973". The Sun. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Fazleena Aziz (9 March 2009). "Only Malaysians can visit North Korea without a visa". The Star. Archived from the original on 23 January 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Kim Jong Un Receives Honorary Doctorate From Malaysian University". Huffington Post. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Greg Lopez (23 October 2013). "Malaysia to build bridges with North Korea". New Mandala. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  10. ^ North Korea Handbook. M.E. Sharpe. January 2003. pp. 627–. ISBN 978-0-7656-3523-5. 
  11. ^ Cheng, Jonathan; Hookway, James; Fernandez, Celine (15 February 2017). "Malaysia, North Korea Ties Run Deep". Wall Street Journal. 
  12. ^ "Malaysia-North Korea To Enhance Information Cooperation". NK News. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Chad O'Carroll (10 February 2017). "Malaysia, N.Korea sign MOU on cultural exchange". NK News. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  14. ^ "N.Korea opens new air route with Malaysia". My Sinchew. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Samuel Rubenfeld (2 December 2016). "U.S. Escalates Sanctions on North Korea, Targeting Air Koryo". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 February 2017.  (subscription required)
  16. ^ Ham Jiha; Jenny Lee (25 January 2017). "UN: North Korean Airline Facing Growing Restrictions". Voice of America. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  17. ^ Joon Ian Wong (18 February 2017). "Kim Jong-nam’s death is straining Malaysia’s surprisingly cozy ties with North Korea". Quartz. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  18. ^ M Kumar (18 February 2017). "North Korea will reject autopsy report, says ambassador". The Star. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  19. ^ Tim Sullivan; Eileen Ng (18 February 2017). "North Korea, Malaysia tussle over Kim Jong Nam's corpse". Associated Press. CTV News. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  20. ^ David Iaconangelo (18 February 2017). "Why Malaysia is refusing to return Kim Jong Nam’s body to North Korea". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "N. Korea must abide by our law, says IGP". The Star. 19 February 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  22. ^ "Malaysia-North Korea row escalates over Kim Jong-nam". Al Jazeera. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  23. ^ "Malaysia-North Korea row escalates over Kim Jong-nam". BBC News. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  24. ^ Ashwin Kumar (28 February 2017). "North Korea sends high powered envoy to solve issues with Malaysia". The Sun. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  25. ^ "Kim Jong-nam death: Malaysia scraps visa-free entry for North Koreans". Associated Press. The Guardian. 2 March 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  26. ^ Ashwin Kumar (4 March 2017). "N. Korean ambassador given 48 hours to leave Malaysia". The Sun. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  27. ^ "North Korea Has Expelled Malaysia's Ambassador as Tensions Over Kim Jong Nam's Death Mount". Associated Press. Time. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017. 
  28. ^ "Pyongyang bans Malaysians from leaving N. Korea". Agence France-Presse. The Star. 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017. 
  29. ^ "Malaysia bans all N. Koreans from leaving country in tit-for-tat after Pyongyang’s ban". RT. 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017. 
  30. ^ "Malaysia, North Korea bar each other's citizens from leaving amid worsening row over Kim Jong Nam's murder". The Straits Times. 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017. 
  31. ^ "Kim body to be sent to Pyongyang, Malaysians freed: Najib". Agence France-Presse. Business Times. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017. 
  32. ^ Paul Gabriel (31 March 2017). "Najib: Malaysia will not sever diplomatic ties with North Korea". The Star. Retrieved 31 March 2017. 
  33. ^ "Malaysia-North Korea ties not severed". Bernama. The Sun. 31 March 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017. [dead link]