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Sweden pulls its embassy staff out of Pyongyang

Posted August. 21, 2020 07:35,   

Updated August. 21, 2020 07:35


Pyongyang’s diplomatic isolation is ever more deepening with foreign missions in North Korea escaping the country en masse since the outbreak of covid-19 in the North.

While the Swedish government holds the stance that the embassy remains open, the operation of all Western missions in the North has in effect been suspended after Swedish officials left the office. Germany and the UK withdrew their officials from the embassies in North Korea in late February and late May, respectively. France, which doesn’t have an embassy in the North, has shut down its cooperation office in Pyongyang temporarily as travel and transportation of supplies have been impeded by Pyongyang’s quarantine measures to stem the coronavirus.

Swedish embassy has been considered as “the last resort” for North Korea as it has been mediating the dialogues between the United States and the North, which has not established formal diplomatic ties with the communist regime. Even when Germany and the United Kingdom emptied their offices, the Swedish authorities themselves predicted that Sweden would not withdraw easily as it plays a special role in the North. Therefore, the latest step by the Swedish authorities comes off as a bit of a surprise. Other diplomatic missions such as China, Russia, India, and Indonesia, are still open, but there is a consensus in the international community that Pyongyang’s diplomatic isolation is rapidly worsening.

Gi-Jae Han record@donga.com