KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Some 50 North Koreans in Sarawak who exceeded the duration of their visas will be deported at the soonest, said Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"We will send the North Korean workers who are in Sarawak, who have exceeded their visa period, back to Pyongyang. Those with valid visas, however, can stay," he told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday (March 14).
Dr Ahmad Zahid said there were a total of 315 North Koreans in Malaysia, adding that negotiations are ongoing with North Korea to allow the remaining nine Malaysians there to return.
He also said that there were a total of 191 North Koreans in the country under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries have soured following the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, by two women at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13.
North Korea has criticised Malaysia’s handling of the investigation, and has even accused it of being part of a conspiracy against Pyongyang.
Tensions escalated on March 7 when North Korea barred all 11 Malaysians there from leaving the country.
Two of them, Stella Lim and Nyanaprakash Muniandy of the United Nations' World Food Programme, got out of Pyongyang and reached Beijing on March 9.
Malaysia issued a similar ban for the 315 North Koreans still in the country.
Dr Ahmad Zahid on Tuesday also confirmed that Mr Kim's body was embalmed to better preserve it given that it has been a month since the North Korean's death.
He told reporters the body was taken out of Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) for the procedure.
"It is an effort to preserve the body. Because if it was kept in the mortuary, the body might decompose so we did this to preserve the body," he said.