SEPANG - The nine Malaysians who were barred from leaving North Korea are now safely back home.
The chartered flight carrying the nine touched down at the KL International Airport (KLIA) at 5.03am Friday, after departing Pyongyang at 7.45pm Malaysian time on Thursday.
The nine had spent 24 days of uncertainty in North Korea, since the ban on them leaving was put in place on March 7.
The nine were the remaining Malaysian diplomatic corps in North Korea and their families, comprising Malaysia's counsellor to North Korea Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, his wife Iza Karmila Ramli and their children Annur Zulaikha, Aynur Zhafirah and Ayscha Zinnirah, personal assistant to the ambassador Noor Saaidah Jamaludin, her husband Mohd Radzuan Othman and eight-month old baby Mohamad Radhiy and administrative assistant Nirmala Malar Kodi Singaram.
Their next-of-kin as well as Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman were present to greet them at KLIA's Bunga Raya Complex.
Relations between Malaysia and North Korea began to deteriorate after Kim Jong-nam, half-brother to the hermit kingdom's leader Kim Jong-un, was assassinated at KLIA 2 on Feb 13 while waiting for a flight to Macau.
Jong-nam was allegedly killed by two women, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who smeared the deadly VX nerve agent on his face.
On Feb 19, police announced that seven more suspects were being sought, including North Korean embassy official Hyon Kwang-song.
Subsequently, diplomatic relations between Malaysia and North Korea began to sour and on Feb 20, North Korean ambassador Kang Chol said Pyongyang could not trust the results of the post-mortem conducted on Jong-nam.
He also accused Malaysia of being in collusion with South Korea.
The situation escalated when Malaysia expelled Kang Chol on March 6, prompting Pyongyang to bar Malaysian citizens from leaving North Korea on March 7.
Malaysia responded with a similar bar the same day, and stopped North Koreans from leaving the country.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that the coroner had approved the release of Jong-nam's body following the completion of the autopsy and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea.
A silver Toyota Alphard was seen leaving the North Korean embassy in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur at 3pm with at least five people on board, while a grey-coloured van was seen leaving the Hospital Kuala Lumpur mortuary for KLIA at about 1.40pm.
The van is believed to be have been carrying Jong-nam's body.