North Korea closes multiple embassies around the world

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Recent media reports and analysts suggest that North Korea is set to close around a dozen of its embassies, including those in Spain, Hong Kong, and multiple African countries. This move could lead to the closure of nearly a quarter of Pyongyang’s missions worldwide. The South Korean Unification Ministry has stated that North Korea’s recent closure of its diplomatic missions is a sign that the reclusive country is struggling to make money overseas due to international sanctions.


According to local media in Angola and Uganda, North Korean ambassadors paid “farewell” visits to the leaders of these countries last week, indicating the closure of the North’s embassies there. The closure of these embassies sets the stage for one of the country’s biggest foreign policy shakeups in decades, with implications for diplomatic engagement, humanitarian work in the isolated country, and the ability to generate illicit revenue.


Founder of the North Korea-focused website NK Pro, Chad O’Carroll, believes that more than a dozen missions may close due to international sanctions, Pyongyang’s disengagement globally, and the probable weakening of the North Korean economy. Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, also attributes the embassy pullout to the impact of international sanctions aimed at curbing funding for the North’s nuclear and missile programs.


North Korea has formal relations with 159 countries but had 53 diplomatic missions overseas, including three consulates and three representative offices, until it pulled out of Angola and Uganda. The country is set to close its embassy in Spain, with its mission in Italy handling affairs in the neighboring country. The North’s embassy in Madrid was in the spotlight in 2019 after a group seeking the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un staged a break-in. Pyongyang denounced the incident as a “grave breach of sovereignty and terrorist attack,” accusing the United States of not investigating the group thoroughly and refusing to extradite its leader.

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