North Koreans Working In Libya Won’t Be Allowed Home

Apparently, the Kim regime is concerned that North Koreans living in Libya have been exposed to a little too much revolution:

North Korea has banned its own citizens working in Libya from returning home, apparently out of fear that they will reveal the extent – and final outcomes – of the revolutions that have shaken the Arab world.

Pyongyang had a close working relationship with the regime of Moammar Gaddafi before the popular uprising that unseated him. That revolution was completed with Gaddafi’s death at the hands of insurgents last week – leaving Kim Jong-Il as one of a dwindling band of old-fashioned dictators on the planet.

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.

An editorial in The Korea Herald stated that the one per cent of North Koreans who are aware of the Arab Spring uprisings will be top-level party and administration officials, as well as the trusted few who are permitted to travel to China on business.

“Pyongyang’s silence about the fall of the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt and the bloody death of Gaddafi reveals Kim Jong-il’s awareness of the vulnerability of his regime in the process of a third-generation dynastic succession of power,” the paper said.

“Despite their boasting of the perfect loyalty of the 23 million people to the party and the leader, the ruling elite are afraid of what effect the information on the fates of the overseas dictatorships will have on the oppressed people of the country.”

For obvious reasons, I think.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    There comes a point, when Americans have to face true oppression, ….and do not have a clue.

    My wife grew up in Franco’s Spain. She can neither read nor write her native language… yet so many obsess over certain peoples ability to speak English.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Just a lovely regime they have in NK.

  3. @michael reynolds:

    I await the horror stories we will hear when that regime finally collapses

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Those stories will fill an encyclopedia.

  5. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Doug Mataconis: You don’t need to wait. The stories available from NPR and stories that are published in the Korea Times and Korea Herald are horrible enough. @michael reynolds: With 20,000+ NK refugees in SK, there’s already an encyclopedia’s worth.

  6. @Doug Mataconis: The ones we actually hear leaking out of that hellhole aren’t horrid enough?

    (BTW: North Korea was in the “axis of evil”, yet we never really raised a finger to them, despite a somewhat powerful ally *right there*. I wonder wh– Oh, right, Iran, China and Russia. We only beat up on the weak. Just wanted to remind everyone of that.)

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Christopher Bowen:
    I don’t think it’s a case of only beating up on the weak. Korea is essentially a hostage situation, with the hostage in question being Seoul itself. We can’t get into a fight with NK without terrible damage being inflicted on our ally, SK.

  8. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: @christopher bowen: Possibly even more to the point, a war on the Korean Peninsula has a great potential to spin out of everyone’s control–China and Japan facing an influx of possibly as many as 15 million refugees, large scale destruction (the South was vitually flattened during the first go around-this time on both sides of the DMZ would get it), tactical nukes, and other joys. The jingoistic knotheads that talk about the virtues of “regime change” in NK are unique in the level at which they don’t get what’s going on.

    And, part of the reason that the knotheads have as much steam as they do is because the actual “strength” of the NK military is an open question. A country where one of the goals is for all members of society to “eat rice at every meal” may have military infrastructure weaknesses that are only hidden because of the reclusiveness of the regime.

  9. @michael reynolds: @Just nutha ig’rant cracker: You know what? I’m going to do something rare in 2011: admit that I haven’t really thought of the collateral damage (refugees in the other Asian countries, the very real chance that Kim really is crazy enough to use the nukes). Thanks.