Malaysia to decide today on fate of North Koreans in Sarawak

SYED UMAR ARIFF

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will decide today whether to continue to detain or deport a group of North Koreans whose working permits had expired recently in Sarawak.


Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also assured that any action taken against the North Koreans would be done rationally in terms of diplomatic relations.


There are about 170 North Koreans in Sarawak, mainly specialised workers operating in a coal mine and a hydro project.


"There are 315 of them nationwide, and some are in Sarawak, where their work permits had expired.


"Today, I will make a decision, in a few moments, on whether to continue detaining or deport them back to (North) Korea, because their working permits have ended.


"We are being rational in making such decisions to ensure the best outcome, in terms of diplomatic relations," Zahid said when met after attending the "Stop It!: Child Sex Crimes" seminar.


The issue of North Korean workers came into light following strained ties between Malaysia and North Korea, over the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong-un.


Zahid also said while discussions on the safety and possible return of Malaysians in North Korea were still ongoing, Jong-nam's next-of-kin have yet to claim his body.


"There has yet to be an official request from the next-of-kin.


"But we will consult the Attorney-General's Chambers and use several approaches to return his body to the next-of-kin."