An estimated 200 North Korean nationals are in Libya and previously worked as doctors, nurses and construction workers, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. They had been dispatched to the country in order to earn the hard currency that Pyongyang requires to fund its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
Yonhap reported that the North Korean nationals have been left in limbo, joining their compatriots who are stuck in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries with orders not to return home.
North Korean media has so far failed to report that Gaddafi is dead and the government has made no moves to officially recognise Libya’s National Transitional Council as the legitimate governing authority of the country.
The decision to ban its own nationals from returning indicates just how concerned the North Korean regime is of the news leaking out to its subjugated people.
While being banned from North Korea certainly has its upsides, recall that many of these individuals will have a lot of trouble finding work, shelter, etc. where they’ve been stranded. Also, they’ve been allowed to work outside of North Korea because they’re not considered defection risks, which in practical terms probably means that they have families to support.
This move seems very old school, and not in a good way. I suspect that the North Korean state is being far too optimistic about its ability to control information; North Koreans in non-Arab countries will probably also have heard of the Arab Spring, and I find it extremely unlikely that the North Korean populace is as in-the-dark about developments as the authorities seem to hope. Doesn’t mean that there’ll be a popular anti-government movement in the DPRK anytime soon, of course.
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