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Germany inspects North Korea embassy closed since COVID

February 28, 2024

Germany has made a temporary inspection of its embassy in North Korea after the diplomatic mission was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. No decision has yet been taken about whether it will be reopened.

The building that houses the diplomatic missions of Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, France in Pyongyang
The building was the former East German mission to Pyongyang, now, in addition to Germany's, it also houses the UK, French and Swedish missions Image: The Swedish Embassy/AP Photo/picture alliance

A team from the German Foreign Office has been sent to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, with a decision yet to be taken about whether Berlin's embassy there will be reopened.

The already isolated state shut its borders completely at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which broke out in neighboring China.

A German Foreign Office spokesman told DW that a team had been sent to Pyongyang to conduct a purely technical inspection of the facility.

Why did the embassy close?

The embassy, like those of many other countries, was closed in March 2020 because of problems with staff rotation and the shipment of supplies during the COVID-19 crisis.

North Korea introduced some of the strictest measures in the world during the coronavirus pandemic, including near-total travel bans and the building of border walls. 

The country has only recently started to ease international travel restrictions, with the first foreign tour group to visit the country earlier this month.

The German Embassy facility is in Pyongyang's Munsudong district and includes apartment blocks used as quarters for the deployed German staff.

The buildings originally belonged to East Germany and were also used by the British, French and Swedish diplomatic missions before the pandemic. 

Sweden and the UK are also understood to be examining the possibility of reopening their diplomatic missions to North Korea.

Few countries maintain diplomatic representation in Pyongyang

The Reuters news agency cited a Swedish contact as saying there were hopes of reestablishing the embassy "relatively soon." The source declined to elaborate because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

According to the Seoul-based NK Pro website, which researches North Korea, only nine countries had functioning embassies in Pyongyang as of January 2023. 

Only China, Russia, Mongolia, and Cuba have been allowed to rotate staff at their embassies since last year.

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Edited by: Sean M. Sinico 


Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.