No North Korean workers left in Malaysia: Masir

JAKARTA-- All North Korean workers have withdrawn from the Malaysian province of Sarawak, a base for the source of hard currency for the North over the past three decades, as no employers have applied for the extension of their expired work permits, a local daily said Monday.

The Malaysian government never issued an instruction not to hire the last batch of 35 North Korean workers whose work permits expired in May, and yet no employers applied for the renewal of their work permits, The Borneo Post quoted Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat as saying in an interview the previous day.

"Since there is no directive not to recruit North Korean workers, why their employers did not continue the contracts, I am also not sure. The fact remains that no one applied for the renewal of their work permits. So upon expiry, these 35 North Korean workers with valid permits just left the state," Masir said.

After these workers left, there is no more of them left in the state, he said.

Sarawak has been the sole Malaysian province that has recruited North Korean workers since the 1980s, with hundreds of North Koreans working especially in coal mines and the construction sector until recently.

The North Koreans usually stayed at their workplace and did not mix with the locals. As they were reclusive and preferred to lay low, their presence was hardly known to the public, the daily said.

"Their presence in Sarawak, however, has been brought into the limelight especially during the recent strenuous situation between Malaysia and North Korea following disagreements over the investigation of the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13," the daily added.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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