Malaysia to cancel visa-free entry for North Koreans

Zahid-HamidiKUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will cancel visa-free entry for North Koreans entering the country from March 6, Bernama reported today.

According to Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, North Koreans will be required to obtain a visa before entering Malaysia for national security reasons.

Speaking today, Zahid said the decision would be gazetted soon.

“I hope the decision of the home ministry will be implemented by the immigration department for the sake of national security,” he told a press conference after the ministry’s Excellent Service Award ceremony here.

The move comes more than two weeks after Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) with a toxic nerve agent.

Jong Nam was awaiting a morning flight to Macau on Feb 13 when he was attacked by two female assailants.

The women, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, were identified after an airport CCTV recording showed them attacking Jong Nam with a substance later found to be the dangerous VX nerve agent, classified as a weapon of mass destruction and banned by the United Nations.

Yesterday, Siti Aisyah and Doan were charged with murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code. If found guilty, they face the mandatory death sentence.

Aside from the two women, police have also nabbed a Malaysian, Muhammad Farid Jallaludin, and North Korean citizen Ri Jong Chul to help in investigations into the murder.

Four other male suspects, all North Korean, fled the country on the same day of the murder. They have been identified as Ri Ji Hyon, Hong Song Hac, O Jong Gil and Ri Jae Nam.

Two other North Korean suspects, Hyon Kwang Song, who is the second secretary with the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Air Koryo employee, Kim Uk Il, are also wanted by police to help in the investigations.

South Korea and the US say Jong Nam was assassinated by agents of the North Korean regime.

Pyongyang however has dismissed suggestions that it had a hand in the killing, and accused Malaysia of collaborating with hostile forces, the phrase normally used by the regime to describe neighbouring South Korea.

The murder has rapidly cooled relations between North Korea and Malaysia, which had been unusually warm, with a reciprocal visa-free travel deal for visitors until now. Malaysia is one of the few countries that North Koreans could visit without a visa.

Up to 100,000 North Koreans are believed to be working abroad. Of these, around 1,000 currently work in Malaysia. Their remittances are a valuable source of foreign currency for the isolated regime.