MALAYSIA has deported over 140 North Koreans with expired work permits nearly two months after the high-profile assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of the north’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un, sparked diplomatic tensions between both countries.
Deputy Home Minister Masir Kujat said the North Korean migrants were rounded up in Sarawak by the state Immigration Department last month.
“The North Koreans were found to have worked in the country without valid permits. All of them have been deported to their country of origin,” he said, as quoted by The Star.
According to the paper, the workers were deported in groups throughout last month, with the last group leaving the Southeast Asian country on Friday. The overstayers were put on a flight to Beijing, China on a connecting flight to North Korea.
He added the government would not make any changes to the existing procedures for North Korean migrants to work in Malaysia.
Jong Nam was murdered at Kuala Lumpur’s airport on Feb 13 in a bizarre assassination using toxic nerve agent, sparking a row between the two countries that had friendly relations before.
Despite the spat, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he will not sever ties with North Korea, state news agency Bernama reported on Friday, after the diplomatic row between the two countries ended this week.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted as saying Malaysia will maintain diplomatic ties with North Korea and will not close its embassy in Pyongyang, adding Malaysia also hoped that Pyongyang would do likewise, Bernama reported.
“We have no desire to sever diplomatic ties with North Korea and we hope North Korea will do the same,” he was quoted as saying.
Three North Koreans wanted for questioning over the murder left Malaysia on Friday along with the body of Kim Jong Nam after Malaysia agreed a swap deal that saw nine Malaysians allowed to return home from Pyongyang.
Malaysian police took statements from three North Koreans wanted for questioning in the murder of Kim Jong Nam before they were allowed to leave the country along with the body of the victim, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference on Friday.
The North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur initially said the victim was Kim Jong Nam, but identified him the next day as Kim Chol, the name given in the dead man’s passport, the police chief said. Since then, North Korea has maintained that the dead man is not Kim Jong Nam.
The three North Koreans and the remains of Kim Jong Nam returned to North Korea on Friday via Beijing in a swap deal that saw the nine Malaysians allowed to return home.
Additional reporting by Reuters