Staff at some of North Korea’s consulates in China have been replaced, report sources close to the matter.
“Most of the diplomatic staff, including the consular representative, have been replaced in Shenyang and Dandong. I’ve seen completely different people moving into and setting up the apartments previously occupied by the former consulate staff,” a source currently in China with knowledge of North Korean affairs told Daily NK on August 7.
“It seems that all those recalled to Pyongyang have been permanently moved. Usually North Korean diplomats stationed in China are rotated out on an individual basis every two to three years. So replacing the entire staff in one fell swoop is pretty unusual.”
The source reportedly heard that staff in consulates in other cities outside Shenyang and Dandong have also been replaced, although this has not been independently confirmed.
He surmised that the staff changes occurred at the same time as a broad recall of ambassadors stationed abroad in July.
As previously reported by Daily NK, the order to return was ostensibly made to discuss the rapidly changing situation on the Korean Peninsula, share the results of recently held summits with South Korea, the US and China, and hand down orders concerning diplomatic responses to a range of issues, including denuclearization.
The rotation is not limited to the diplomatic sector a separate source in China with ties to North Korea added, noting that “approximately half of the traders and staff affiliated with light industry, construction, and some manufacturing sectors have also been rotated.”
He said that Pyongyang has also called for ratcheting up of ideological education for overseas workers to thwart “corruption from the inevitable contact with capitalism” and “potential escapes.”
Awareness of and concerns over the relative access to independent news and information North Koreans dispatched overseas enjoy is also behind the rotation, as are concerns regarding sensitive information leaks, according to the source.
“A lot of the replacements are relatively young,” he said, explaining that the regime is grooming the younger staff to control but will find it more challenging to influence a generation that is increasingly at ideological odds with the regime.