The Cable

Mapped: North Korea’s Diplomatic Missions Abroad

Countries have expelled their North Korean ambassadors, but are they really scaling back diplomatic ties?


Since North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, Spain, Kuwait, Peru, and Mexico have expelled their North Korean ambassadors in unprecedented consecutive diplomatic blows to the impoverished nation. But it remains to be seen whether diplomatic isolation with have a lasting effect.

“New people will come back into [the ambassadors’] place if the missions themselves are not being closed. It makes it relatively temporary,” Andrea Berger, a senior research associate and program manager at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Foreign Policy.

In the past, high-ranking diplomats from the budding nuclear power have been expelled for violating national protocol, largely for economic reasons. In 2015, South Africa expelled a North Korean diplomat for rhino-horn smuggling.

Still even without ambassadorships, North Korea’s diplomatic presence could remain unscathed, especially in Kuwait. While the country expelled the last remaining ambassador for North Korea in the Gulf Region, economic investments and North Korea’s exportation of migrant workers to the region make the expulsion of an ambassador symbolic at best.  

“I would imagine the disruptive effect there is relatively little,” Berger said.

North Korea has embassies in 47 countries total, according to the National Committee on North Korea.

Data taken from the National Committee on North Korea.

Ruby Mellen is a fellow at Foreign Policy. @RubyMellen

C.K. Hickey is Foreign Policy’s resident interactives and features designer, but you can call him CSS Wizard for short. A film studies major from Los Angeles, C.K. flirted with television as an FX Networks production intern until technology and journalism wooed him away. Prior to FP, he honed his writing and coding skills at Salon, Current TV, KQED, and the Virginian-Pilot. C.K.’s interactive documentary, The Town: Reckoning at Mammoth Lakes, won a Digital Storymakers Award from the Atavist in 2013, and he won four Virginia Press Association awards for features he produced at the Pilot. C.K. has worked at FP since 2015. When not developing projects like Global Thinkers, he’s probably cooking, playing his piano, hiking, or watching old movies. @seekayhickey

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