KUALA LUMPUR: Media hordes converged for hours outside the North Korean embassy and at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the day Kang Chol was expelled from the country – a culmination of the diplomatic spat sparked by the ambassador’s scathing attacks against Malaysia following Kim Jong-nam’s murder.
A media scrum, who had camped at the airport since morning, surrounded the man of the hour as he exited his official car at 4.40pm.
The envoy, who had to leave Malaysia by 6pm yesterday after he was declared persona non grata by the Foreign Ministry, briefly addressed the press, with the aid of a translator.
“The Malaysian Government declared me persona non grata for what I said at a press conference on Feb 17.
“The statements I made reflected my righteous stand as the ambassador of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) in this country on the investigation by the Malaysian police.
“They conducted the autopsy without the consent or attendance of the DPRK embassy, and later arrested a DPRK citizen without any clear evidence of his involvement in the incident.
“I express grave concern over the extreme measures taken by the Malaysian Government, which have greatly harmed bilateral relations that date back more than 40 years,” Kang Chol told journalists before being escorted by airport police to the VIP lounge.
The media throng followed him, resulting in plenty of shoving and shouting, and even scuffles.
The pandemonium attracted much attention from curious onlookers, who filmed and took photos of the situation.
At 6.25pm, Kang Chol departed on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH360, economy class, to Beijing, with his wife and five-year-old granddaughter.
Earlier, two embassy officials had arrived at the airport to check in the trio’s luggage.
Spotted were four large boxes marked DPRK Pyongyang, three suitcases, and a box of a 32-inch Philips LED television.
The luggage was overweight and an officer paid RM6,981 in cash for the 111kg in excess.
The scene of frenzy was earlier seen outside the embassy here, where more than 100 media personnel had waited for hours for Kang Chol to appear.
Tensions were high, given that it was possibly the final chance to get footage of the elusive envoy, as the large media presence clogged up Jalan Batai, the road fronting the embassy.
There were several tense moments when the press surrounded vehicles trying to enter or exit the embassy premises, prompting the police to cordon off the road with yellow tape at 2.20pm and maintain order to allow vehicles to pass through.
At 3.50pm, Kang Chol emerged. After his luggage was loaded onto his official car, a Jaguar, the envoy was driven off to KLIA under police escort.
A loud cheer broke out among the media members as the car sped away, with palpable relief among them that a chapter in the North Korean saga had ended.
Some of them, especially those from the foreign press, had been staking out at the embassy every day for the past three weeks.
Kang Chol, 64, arrived in Malaysia on June 26, 2014, and presented his credentials to the King on Sept 2 that year.