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North Korea bans personnel from returning home for fear of Ebola epidemic

(Sankei: January 17, 2015 – Top play)


 North Korea has banned agents, workers, and other personnel overseas from returning home for fear of introducing the Ebola virus into the country, a source well-versed in Korean peninsula affairs disclosed on Jan. 16.


 This is the first time that the DPRK is known to have banned its own citizens from returning home. Although certain trade officials and diplomats are allowed to enter the country on the condition of being quarantined, North Korea is effectively in a state of seclusion.


 Since First Secretary Kim Jong Un has ordered thorough measures to prevent an epidemic, it is now difficult for Japan-DPRK talks on the abduction issue to take place in Pyongyang, and this situation is likely to affect North Korea’s guidance of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon).


 According to this source, embassy officials, trade personnel, and Chongryon officials operating overseas who work as spies for the DPRK’s foreign intelligence agency “Bureau 225” are banned from entering North Korea. In order to prevent the Ebola epidemic from affecting the country, a secret meeting scheduled to be held in Pyongyang late last year was cancelled and participants were ordered to stand by in foreign countries.


 Bureau 225 often holds secret meetings in Pyongyang to issue orders to spies or receive funds from them. In the present case, they were ordered to send money only.


 North Korea’s Ministry of Commerce is also considering holding in Beijing, instead of Pyongyang, a regular meeting of embassy officials dealing with economic affairs. Officials stationed in Africa, where there is an Ebola outbreak, will not be allowed to participate.


 It was also learned that North Korea has banned workers sent to Africa and other places to earn foreign currency from returning home since last fall. During this period, crew members on trains between China and North Korea were also banned from coming into contact with North Korean citizens in China. These workers have complained that the quarantine measures are excessively stringent.


 The annual performance of the student and youth art troupe of North Korean residents in Japan in January has also been postponed. The DPRK is on red alert and is banning even the entry of its own citizens into Japan, a country where Ebola infection has not been found.


 The above source offers the analysis that “such thorough preventive measures have been taken even at the expense of undermining national power because Kim Jong Un does not trust the country’s medical systems and is extremely afraid of being infected.” He reckons that this is very likely to affect North Korea’s foreign intelligence operations and diplomacy.

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