Malaysia mystified by disappearance of 176 North Korean site workers

Some 176 North Koreans hired to work at construction sites in Malaysia’s Sarawak state have "disappeared into thin air", according to reports in the The Borneo Post on 29 March.

Two weeks ago, journalists from the paper visited a construction site where the teams of North Korean workers were employed and found that they had all vanished, leaving behind their personal belongings, work clothes, tools, helmets and boots.

The equipment was found in two makeshift locker rooms in an uncompleted building.

Ken Leben, Sarawak’s immigration director, said there were no records of the Koreans leaving the state. Malaysia had earlier this month barred North Koreans from leaving the country, after a diplomatic row over the bizarre assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 13 February.

The travel ban has since been lifted.

A local worker named Alec told The Borneo Post that the North Korean workers, most of whom were in their 40s, left without notifying anyone.

He said: "They were very co-operative and they displayed a high team spirit. Even doing something not so heavy, the others would help to carry it. They seemed to work at a slow pace but they worked very systematically.

"After we have clocked out, we could still see them working. And the next day when we start work, they would normally complete that particular part of the project which they were working on the day before. They were like ants – working quietly and diligently to finish the workload passed to them."

Image: Sarawak is undergoing rapid development (Sarawak Heritage Society)

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