Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Three DPRK physicians were killed in their Nigerian apartment in Yobe State early on 10 February (Sunday), after being attacked in what was either a botched robbery or attacked by elements of Boko Haram or a similar militant jihadi group operating in northeast Nigeria. The DPRK nationals, one female and two males, worked at Potiskum General Hospital and had specialties in ear, nose and throat, gynecology and acupuncture and had been living and working in Nigeria since 2005. Local residents said that three DPRK doctors had been in the area for a year. At either 20:00 on 9 February or around 1:30 on 10 February, the group of armed attackers entered the doctors’ apartment in the T Junction neighborhood in Potiskum. According to local authorities, there was a curfew in place, due to ongoing violent activities by militants. The attackers slit the the throats of the three DPRK doctors, and according to some accounts one was decapitated. The bodies were discovered on Sunday, and there was initial confusion as to whether the doctor were South Korean [ROK] or Chinese nationals.
The DPRK physicians were in the country under an agreement and labor contract between the DPRK Government and the Nigerian Ministry of Health. Physicians and nurses are part of the DPRK’s population of overseas workers. DPRK-owned clinics or DPRK physicians and nurses are present in North (i.e. Libya) and sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. DPRK physicians working abroad are typically posted to rural areas in developing nations that have a shortage of medical personnel. The DPRK also other technical personnel who had been working in and around Yobe State.
The DPRK and Nigeria have cordial relations. In October 2012 Nigerian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Viola Onwuliri visited the DPRK for three during which she completed an inter-government agreement on “on cooperation in the fields of the economy, science and technology.” This agreement may have included an extension of the program under which the three deceased doctors were employed in Potiskum. In December 2012 DPRK and Nigeria investment commissions completed memoranda of understanding and other cooperation agreements, after another Nigerian delegation visited Pyongyang.