May 22 (UPI) -- A group of North Korean workers have left Malaysia after their employers did not renew their expired work permits.
The 35 workers sanctioned by the North Korean state are returning home although they could have stayed in the Malaysian province of Sarawak legally, The Borneo Post reported Monday.
"Since there is no directive not to recruit North Korean workers, why their employers did not continue the contracts, I am also not sure," said Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat. "The fact remains that no one applied for renewal of their work permits. So upon expiry, these 35 North Korean workers with valid permits just left the state."
There are now no North Korean workers in Sarawak, according to the Malaysian official.
The report comes more than a month after 296 North Koreans reported themselves to Malaysian authorities as the government rolled out new visa requirements after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un, at an airport in Malaysia.
Although Malaysia revoked visa-free entry for North Korean nationals after the slaying of the older Kim, the country still offers working permits to North Koreans.
North Koreans are hired to work in labor-intensive sectors like coal mining and construction.
The flow of workers from North Korea to Malaysia began in the 1980s, when the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, still presided over state affairs but also delegated the running of the government to his son Kim Jong Il.
Tensions between Malaysia and North Korea in the aftermath of the assassination ended after Malaysian nationals who were detained in North Korea returned home and three North Koreans were released and allowed to board a flight to Beijing.