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Last remaining Int'l Red Cross staff pull out of Pyongyang: ICRC

All News 15:31 December 03, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday that the last remaining staff members at its Pyongyang office have left the country after finishing up their assignments.

But it is unclear when the Geneva-based organization will be able to get their replacements into North Korea as the regime maintains tight border controls in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The ICRC had maintained six international staff members at its Pyongyang office, but it scaled down the number to two early this year as it could not bring in new workers. On Wednesday, the remaining two left Pyongyang as their assignments were completed, according to the ICRC.

"Our colleagues arrived in China on Dec. 2 where they will do their quarantine before flying to their home countries," the ICRC said. "We remain ready to send new staff once the situation allows to continue with our activities."

The ICRC said the withdrawal of its workers from the North does not mean it is closing its mission in North Korea, adding its Pyongyang office will provide "very limited activities" for the time being.

"For now, the support and engagement with the DPRK Red Cross Society, our primary partner in the DPRK, will be managed entirely from the regional delegation in Beijing," it said.

DPRK is the acronym of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea has reported no coronavirus cases, but its border closure put in place since early this year has apparently hampered shipments of humanitarian assistance to the impoverished state.

State media earlier said North Korea has recently placed Pyongyang on the highest level of alert against the coronavirus virus.

The ICRC, known for its commitment to wartime humanitarian assistance, has been operating various aid projects in North Korea since it opened an office in Pyongyang in 2002.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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