North Korea’s first and only law firm, Hay, Kalb & Associates, is to suspend operations, the firm’s principal said in a statement yesterday, as the country grows increasingly isolated.
The firm is a joint venture between the North Korean state and British-French citizen Michael Hay, who has represented foreign clients in the capital, Pyongyang, for 12 years.
Hay said he had made the decision based on “business and geopolitical principles.”
“This decision has been taken only after lengthy and thorough deliberation and an examination of the continuing deterioration of interregional relations pertaining to the Korean Peninsula,” Hay said in a statement.
“It is not unreasonable to assume that no meaningful change or indicator of change in relations shall occur, if at all, until well after the United States’ presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017,” the statement said.
North Korea has come under growing diplomatic pressure since its January nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch in February, which led to a new UN Security Council resolution in March that tightened sanctions against Pyongyang.
The majority of Hay’s clients are foreign investors, many of whom have been negatively affected by the sanctions, Hay told reporters.
“Sanctions are hurting legitimate foreign investors. There still is no credible, consistent evidence I see of DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] companies hurting,” Hay said, using the North’s official title.
Very few foreigners live or work in North Korea. Those who do are usually members of the diplomatic or nongovernmental organization community, although a small group of foreign investors have maintained a quiet and steady presence inside the country.
The suspension was to take effect from midnight yesterday, Hay said, with an official suspension scheduled for Aug. 14, the firm’s 12-year anniversary.
Hay said he would still maintain an office in Pyongyang.
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