Conflict & Justice

North Korea to citizens in war-torn Libya: don't come home


PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA: Propaganda mural painting is seen outside People's Palace of Culture on April 2, 2011 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea and the population is about 2,500,000.


Feng Li

Though most of the world's governments have hustled their citizens out of Libya, North Koreans working there will have to stick it out.

The North Korean government has forbidden about 200 of its citizens from coming home, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Why? Likely because authorities fear news of the rebellion will reach everyday North Koreans and inspire them to revolt, says the Korea Times.

Besieged Libyan strongman Qaddafi has few heads of state cheering him on, but he can count on North Korea's Kim Jong-Il as a pal. Qaddafi is a "revolutionary ally," according to AFP. His now-fragile government has been trusted to take in hundreds of laborers, medical professionals and others from North Korea.

But from the paranoid perspective of Kim Jong-Il, the pro-democracy rebellion and Western airstrikes in Libya prove that nuclear weapons are necessary to keep foreign enemies at bay. Qaddafi squashed his nuclear program to get Western aid and trade flowing in 2003.

How bad did Qaddafi screw up? Pretty bad, according to North Korea's news agency, which said this in late March: 

“It has been shown to the corners of the earth that Libya’s giving up its nuclear arms, which the U.S. liked to chatter on about, was used as an invasion tactic to disarm the country by sugarcoating it with words like ‘the guaranteeing of security’ and ‘the bettering of relations.’”

North Korea's refusal to bring back its people suggests authorities fear citizens might process the news differently.

Still, when North Koreans hears orders from their superiors, they follow them. No one wants to run afoul of Kim Jong-Il's "Storm Corps," who train by punching tin cans until their hand "turns into mush with blood and pus" and letting cars drive over their outstretched arms.