Pyongyang boldly declared that they would sever ties with Kuala Lumpur and shutter their embassy when Malaysia extradited a North Korean trader involved in illegal money laundering to the United States. However, the North Korean authorities reportedly neglected to recall North Korean workers involved in the smuggling of luxury goods and weapons through Kuala Lumpur.

A source told Daily NK on Monday that hundreds of employees of a trade company affiliated with the Central Committee as well as secret agents from the Munitions Industry Department (MID) are still in Malaysia. The trade company reportedly smuggles luxury goods into North Korea, while the MID is reportedly involved with arms smuggling.

North Korea has long used Malaysia as a stopover when it performs illegal trade with the Middle East and Africa. 

The secret agents from MID smuggle North Korean weapons into Iran, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates and import weapons from other countries to North Korea. Regardless of the direction of trade, these activities both violate sanctions on the country. 

However, if the agents use false names or nationalities to make counterfeit passports, it is difficult to track them when they participate in illegal activities.

Malaysian authorities have turned a blind eye to the agents’ and trade workers’ illegal residence in Malaysia for decades, making it difficult to deport all of them.

The secret agents and trade workers have reportedly complained that their work has become more difficult after the North Korean embassy in Malaysia closed its doors, the source said. 

North Korea’s embassy in Malaysia. / Image: Yonhap

Secret agents must report the progress of their work to their headquarters in Pyongyang and remain in constant contact with the authorities. However, they are now forced to devise and adjust to a new reporting system due to the withdrawal of the North Korean embassy in Malaysia.

The North Korean authorities are also reportedly troubled by the situation. The North Korean government is concerned that the extradition to the United States of Mun Chol Myong, a trader linked with the Reconnaissance General Bureau, could have a significant negative impact on the morale of trade workers still in Malaysia.

If one or more traders escape or defect to another country, North Korea not only risks the leak of confidential information regarding North Korea’s involvement in arms trafficking, but also the security of overseas agents receiving orders from the authorities.

North Korean officials dispatched overseas are reportedly greatly disappointed by the government’s failure to take action to protect Mun until he had already been extradited to the United States.

On Mar. 25, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles over the East Sea. According to the source, the missiles are partially intended to serve as an admonition for the United States’ imprisonment of a North Korean citizen suspected of illegal money laundering and its continuous accusations of human rights violations in North Korea. However, the missile launch also served as a way to prevent unrest among MID agents overseas. 

“News of their country’s successful missile launch may alleviate the confusion of agents struggling overseas and make them feel like their efforts are worthwhile,” the source said.

The Korean Central News Agency claimed last Friday that “the test launch was successful, as was confidently expected,” and that “after multiple above-ground engine ignition tests and test launches, [the military] has confirmed the reliability of the improved solid-fuel engine.”

The vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, Ri Pyong Chol, and officials from the MID and National Defense Science Research Commission also reportedly attended the missile test.

Translated by S & J

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