KATHMANDU, Dec 12: With the UN deadline for member states to repatriate all North Korean nationals earning money in their respective countries just over a week away, Nepal has forcibly closed some North Korean businesses that ignored instructions to cease operations and leave the country by October 31.
Officials at the Department of Industry and Department of Immigration last week raided and shut down the North Korean Botonggang Restaurant and Bar at Kamaladi, Kathmandu after earlier instructions to cease operations were ignored. All other North Korean-owned businesses were closed down through repeated follow-up by both departments and threats to use other administrative measures, officials said.
A total of 48 North Koreans had obtained business and work visas for Nepal. Of these, 42 have already returned home, according to Director at Immigration Department Liladhar Adhikari. “There are only six North Koreans living in the country now. We have instructed them to leave at the earliest possible through due legal processes,” he said.
Since immigration laws in Nepal allow foreign nationals to stay here for some time on tourist visas, officials said the remaining six North Koreans are currently on tourist visas. The Department of Industry had earlier instructed the Immigration Department not to extend the work visas of any of North Korean workers.
The presence of some North Koreans on tourist visas till December had evoked concern from the US and other Western countries. Arguing that the extension of visas for them to stay legally in Nepal violates a provision in UNSC Resolution 2375, they had drawn the attention of the government.
Deputy Director at the Department of Industry Prem Luitel said they have shut down all businesses owned by North Korean nationals in Nepal. “They have already repatriated their investments. There is no North Korean investment in Nepal now,” he claimed.
Industry Department officials said the North Koreans had invested in hotels, restaurants, hospitals and IT companies. These ventures included Yongbong and Chand IT Company, Himalayan Soji Restaurant, Rimin Hotel, Pyongyang Acugyan Restaurant and Himal Chilbo Technical Solution.
Although the North Koreans sought permission to invest Rs 230 million, the Department of Industry does not have any data on how much money they brought in through formal channels. “They had not brought in investments as per the commitment they made before us. Since they had very little invested, it was not difficult to repatriate their investment,” Luitel further said.
Earlier, the US and other Western countries had sent a demarche to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), cautioning Nepal not to go against UNSC resolutions, namely UNSCR 2375 and UNSCR 2397.
While Resolution 2375 restricts countries from issuing any new visas or renewing old ones for North Korean workers in their respective countries after September 11, 2017, UNSCR 2397 makes it mandatory for all UN member states to repatriate all North Korean nationals earning incomes in their respective countries, by December 22, 2019.
The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions against North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, apparently to discourage the Kim Jong-un regime from conducting nuclear tests and developing nuclear weapons.