North Korean staff assigned to consulates in China are being called back to Pyongyang for questioning on their political views, with some officials ordered home not returning to their posts, sources say.
The recall order, which began in April, is the largest in recent memory, a Korean-Chinese source in Shenyang city in China’s Liaoning province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“The summoning of consulate staff back to Pyongyang began all at once in many cities in China, including Beijing, Shenyang, Dandong, and Shanghai,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The reason for the mass recall seems to be to a review of the staffers’ ideology, though some say this may just be part of a North Korean plan to replace them all.”
Some of those called back have not been seen again, the source said.
“One North Korean staffer that I know was summoned to Pyongyang, but I haven’t heard from him for months. His wife and daughter, who had been studying at Liaoning University, went back with him.”
“A number of people from the Shenyang consulate have been called home, and they are reportedly being subjected to an intensive ideological review,” the source said, adding that some younger staffers have been sent out to replace them, though not all posts have been filled.
Many of the consulate staff called back with their families have already had long tours in their posts, a second source told RFA, adding that “this continuous summoning of staffers since April is causing extreme anxiety.”
“One worker in the Shenyang consulate who was put in charge of [China’s] Dandong district was called back to Pyongyang and punished for his failure to manage conditions for North Korean workers in China to secure party funding,” he said.
North Korea has exported workers to China, Russia, and countries farther afield for years, but requires them to remit most of their earnings to the North Korean government, which is believed to use the cash to fund its illicit weapons programs.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.