The Korea Herald


UN chief appoints new resident coordinator for N. Korea

By Yonhap

Published : March 5, 2024 - 09:46

    • Link copied

The United Nations headquarters building, in New York City, on Monday. (AFP-Yonhap) The United Nations headquarters building, in New York City, on Monday. (AFP-Yonhap)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed a new UN resident coordinator for North Korea in a personnel decision confirmed by the reclusive regime, his spokesperson said Monday.

Joe Colombano of Italy assumed his role on Friday, Stephane Dujarric said, in a development that raised hopes for Pyongyang to allow the entry of other personnel from key UN agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the UN Development Program.

There has been no presence of international UN staff in the North since early 2021, when Pyongyang imposed border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In his new role, he will support the DPRK's commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, leading the UN team's efforts, including food and nutrition security, social development services, resilience and sustainability, as well as data and development management," Dujarric told a briefing.

DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"He also brings to his post over 25 years of experience at UN headquarters and in the field," the spokesperson added.

Asked if other personnel from UN agencies will be able to enter the North, Dujarric said that related discussions are under way with the North.

"Obviously, I think the presence of a resident coordinator would be critical, will be a very important symbol of the ability for international UN staff to return, but we are continuing to be in discussions with the authorities in Pyongyang," he said.

Colombano is currently working remotely from the UN office in Bangkok before his entry into the North, according to Dujarric.

There are currently around 50 North Korean personnel working for the UN team in North Korea, while some 25 international staffers are on standby to return to the North, according to Carolina Azevedo, chief of the Communications and Results Reporting at the UN Development Coordination Office.

"While a part of the UN Country Team operates remotely, national personnel ensure business continuity in Pyongyang," she told Yonhap News Agency via email.

Asked about when Colombano will fly to Pyongyang, she said, "This isn't something that he controls as he depends on the host government's decision."

His appointment came amid reports that some European countries sent their diplomats to the North or are working to do so in what appears to be a move to ultimately resume the operation of their missions in Pyongyang following pandemic-driven pauses.

An official at South Korea's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said Tuesday that North Korea opening its door to the international community and international organizations, in any form, is a process that should rightly take place.

Colombano has decades of experience in international relations and negotiations on political and development issues. He served most recently as the head of the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator to China in Beijing.

He holds a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University, a master's in international political economy from the University of Warwick in Britain and a master of laws in Chinese law from the University of Hong Kong. (Yonhap)