PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - "Don't worry about us, we are all safe."
This is the message from one of the Malaysians being held in North Korea amid the escalating diplomatic stand-off between the two countries following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the exiled half-brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.
Mr Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, counsellor at the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang, said the Malaysians were in constant contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and with their families back home.
"We have already contacted them individually and are updating them from time to time, so they know of our status here. Right now, there is nothing to be worried about," he said when contacted.
His relatives back in Malaysia have expressed worry over his and his family's safety. He is believed to be in Pyongyang together with his wife and their three young children.
Mr Mohd Nor Azrin said there were 11 Malaysians recorded to be in North Korea, comprising three embassy employees, six of their family members and two others working for the World Food Programme (WFP), a United Nations agency. All of them are now at the diplomatic compound of the Malaysian embassy.
Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican had earlier told reporters in Parliament that all those at the embassy were asked to leave North Korea immediately but they were stopped. However, there was no immediate threat to their safety.
It is understood that the other two Malaysian embassy staff members in Pyongyang now are the ambassador's personal assistant Noor Saaidah Jamaludin and administrative assistant Nirmala Malar Kodi Singaram.
The counsellor asked Malaysians to get the latest information on the row from MFA instead of unverified sources.
"On our part, we will continue to do our work as we have been instructed and as public servants," he said.
Another Malaysian at the embassy, who declined to be named, said she was in Pyongyang with her husband and child.
"What I can say is that everything is normal at the embassy, and there is nothing which has caused us to be frightened or anything. It's just like any other day," she said.
Separately, a WFP spokesman confirmed that it has two Malaysian staff members in North Korea.
"As UN staff members, they are international civil servants who do not represent any country.
"WFP takes the safety and security of its staff seriously and is closely monitoring the situation," the spokesman said.
While those in the embassy said they were safe, a Malaysian woman in Pyongyang told Bernama news agency that she was unaware about the temporary ban.
"Is that so? We did not receive any news about the ban," she said when contacted.