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North Korea’s Decision to Shutdown The Diplomatic Missions

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North Korea announced that they have decided to close some of their diplomatic missions and induce their capability to continue other activities. Until now, the Spain, Hong Kong, Angola, and Uganda missions are closed. [1] However, experts say that there is a possibility in which Pyongyang will be closing 10 more embassies and missions. This number is 20% of the diplomatic existence. [2]

In a statement by South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on the 3rd of November 2023, it is said that “there is an ongoing operation related to calling back the diplomatic missions and founding them in line with changes in international global areas and national foreign policy”. As Ministry of Foreign Policy which referred to some of the embassies being closed and new ones being opened, underlined that changes are “part of the regular business in the international relations for encouraging the national interests. [3]

According to the Unification Ministry of South Korea, North Korea has diplomatic relations with more than 150 countries but has quite a small number of embassies and consulates. In a similar case, North Korea shut down most of its overseas missions in the 1990s due to serious famine. [4]

Apparently, Pyongyang resorts to secret ways of making money abroad, facing serious problems due to sanctions that prevent these ways.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry indicated that these shutdowns are a “mark of sanctions to North Korea becoming stronger that even the close allies of them hardly be able to pay effaces their gain on foreign money.[5]

Korea National Unification Institute’s Senior Researcher Cho Han-Bum said that it is hard to find a reason for the country to shut down diplomatic missions except for an economic crisis. Cho made this statement: [6]

“Siber attacks are not enough to harm North Korea’s economy. Seemingly, economic hardship and running short of foreign money resources are the biggest reasons why embassies in foreign countries are getting closed.”

North Korea’s problematic economic situation was already worsened when they closed their borders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts also say that Pyongyang changed its diplomatic strategy from focusing on non-aligned movement allies such as Angola and Uganda to a new one which focuses on several important countries such as Russia and China.

As an old North Korean diplomat and fled to South Korea Thae Yong-Ho said “North Korea, will strengthen the so-called new Cold War strategy by continuing or strengthening the relationship with important countries such as China, Russia, Syria, Iran, and Cuba”. He added, “However, it can be seen that a decrease in the diplomatic capabilities of North Korea is inevitable”. [7]

In this context, economic pressures are extremely important. North Korea is facing serious economic problems due to sanctions aggravating the financing of overseas diplomatic missions and continuing foreign policy activities. Especially, it is drawn attention to sanctions restricting country’s ways of gaining foreign money.

Narrowing down diplomatic relations is another important topic. Thus, embassies and consulates are important for North Korea to sustain diplomatic relations with other countries. Shutting down these diplomatic institutions can restrain North Korea’s communication and diplomacy with foreign countries.

The changing foreign policy strategy also creates an important situation. It is seen that North Korea chooses to focus on important countries like China and Russia instead of long-term friends. This shows a new disposition in North Korea’s foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, economic difficulties also come to the front in this context. North Korea’s decision to close diplomatic missions can be seen as a reflection of the country’s economic difficulties. In addition to sanctions, the Covid-19 pandemic may have negatively affected North Korea’s economic situation.

Lastly, the effect of sanctions takes attention. North Korea’s decision to close diplomatic missions overseas, shows that international sanctions are effective and creating problems in the country’s foreign relations. This emphasizes the effect of sanctions on North Korea.

As a result, the reasons behind North Korea’s decision to close diplomatic missions and this decision showing the changes in the country’s foreign policy are dwelled on. These developments and this decision underlines the pressure of international sanctions on North Korea and the economic problems of the country. This can have a huge impact on North Korea’s foreign relations and diplomatic capacity.


[1] “North Korea Says Closing Foreign Missions as Part of Its ‘Regular Affairs’”, Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/3/north-korea-says-closing-foreign-missions-as-part-of-its-regular-affairs, (Erişim Tarihi: 04.11.2023).

[2] “North Korea Says Recent Embassy Closures ‘Regular Affairs’“, Barron’s, https://www.barrons.com/news/north-korea-says-recent-embassy-closures-regular-affairs-d232f2b2, (Erişim Tarihi: 04.11.2023).

[3] “North Korea Closes 4 Diplomatic Missions, Suggesting Economic Woes”, Vocie of Ameria News, https://www.voanews.com/a/north-korea-closes-4-diplomatic-missions-suggesting-economic-woes/733916, (Erişim Tarihi: 04.11.2023).

[4] “North Korea is Closing Some Diplomatic Missions in What May be a Sign of Its Economic Troubles”, Associated Press News,https://apnews.com/article/north-korea-closes-diplomatic-missions-sanctions-embassy-7fc7fa4b5f88408af990eab5f6312b8d, (Erişim Tarihi: 04.11.2023).

[v] “North Korea Says Recent Embassy Closures ‘Regular Affairs’“, Barron’s, https://www.barrons.com/news/north-korea-says-recent-embassy-closures-regular-affairs-d232f2b2, (Erişim Tarihi: 04.11.2023).

[6] Aynı yer.

[7] Aynı yer.

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.