Malaysians Trapped In North Korea Are Back Home Safely
The nine Malaysians who were trapped in North Korea are finally back home after almost a month
"Alhamdulillah, they took off from Pyongyang today (30 March) at 7.45pm Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow (31 March) around 5am," said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a statement, as reported by Malaysiakini.
Both North Korea and Malaysia lifted their respective travel bans yesterday, 30 March and deal was informed by Najib and confirmed by the North Korean state media.
In line with that, Najib said that the North Koreans citizens can leave Malaysia too.
There were initially 11 Malaysians trapped in North Korea, but since two of them held United Nations' travel documents, they were allowed to leave.
The three embassy staff and six family members landed at 5.03am today and were met by their family members and Foreign Minister Anifah Aman
When speaking to Channel NewsAsia, the counsellor of the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang, Mohamad Nor Azrin, said that they were not threatened and were free to move around during the travel ban.
They were, however, troubled by the fact that they were not allowed to leave North Korea.
"We were very concerned because we had done no wrong. But we had to keep our spirits up," he added.
Nor Azrin also said that staff from other embassies looked out for them by offering to bring food and supplies from Beijing.
In their efforts to ensure the safe return of Malaysians, the government sent Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) crew who impersonated as commercial pilots to fly them out of North Korea
In a report by New Straits Times (NST), the crew of two pilots, two co-pilots, and two quartermasters were all reportedly clad in casual attire instead of their RMAF uniforms during their rescue mission.
"We received the order (for the rescue mission) on Monday. However, we were only able to take off from the Subang air base, en route to Pyongyang, on a Bombardier Global Express business jet at around 10.30am on Thursday."
"It was a mixed feeling, as we did not know what to expect when we reached North Korea. However, everything was normal when we arrived there," explained Lieutenant-colonel Hasrizan Kamis to NST.
Meanwhile, Najib announced that Jong-nam's body will be sent back to North Korea as a letter from his family requested for his remains to be returned to Pyongyang
"In addition, following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body," said Najib.
However, Najib did not mention who exactly from the family made the request for the body to be sent back to Pyongyang. Jong-nam's family are believed to have gone into hiding after his death. They were previously living in exile in Macau.
According to a report by Channel NewsAsia, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman confirmed that Jong-nam's body is on its way back to North Korea. The body was put onboard a Malaysia Airlines flight to Beijing at 7.39pm on 30 March.
Yonhap, a South Korean news agency reported today that Jong-nam's body will be flown to Pyongyang via an Air Koryo flight tomorrow, 1 April.
The prime minister also took the opportunity to thank everyone who played a part in the negotiations for the release of Malaysians trapped in North Korea
He also mentioned that Malaysia takes such crimes very seriously and that the investigation on the death of Jong-nam will continue.
"I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice," added Najib in the statement.
After years of enjoying a very cordial relationship with North Korea, things took an ugly turn when Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated at KLIA2 on 13 February
Two foreign nationals - a Vietnamese and an Indonesian, have been arrested and charged with the murder. Evidence and CCTV footage proves that the duo approached the victim and smeared his face with the lethal nerve agent VX.
Malaysian authorities are currently on the lookout for seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on 13 February, the day of the murder.
Interpol issued a red notice for the four North Korean suspects and as of today, they are still on the organisation's list of those wanted for murder.
The four suspects are - Rhi Ji-hyon, 33, Hong Song-hac, 34, O Jong-gil, 55, and Ri Jae-nam, 57.