Travel Warning – Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of

Published by November 17, 2011

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

November 03, 2011

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The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens about travel to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). The North Korean government will detain, prosecute, and sentence those who enter the DPRK without first having received explicit, official permission and an entry visa from its government. Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidently, have been subject to arrest and long-term detention. Since January 2009, four U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering North Korea illegally. In 2010, a fifth U.S. citizen, who had a valid DPRK visa in his U.S. passport, was arrested inside North Korea on unspecified charges.

The Government of North Korea imposes heavy fines and long prison sentences with hard labor on persons who enter the country without a valid passport and a North Korean visa. If you travel unescorted inside North Korea without explicit official authorization, North Korean security personnel may view your actions as espionage.

Security personnel may view any unauthorized attempt you make to talk to a North Korean citizen as espionage. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest you for unauthorized currency transactions or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners.

It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country’s current and former leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. North Korean authorities have threatened foreign journalists who questioned the policies or public statements of the DPRK or the actions of the current leadership

North Korean government authorities may also view taking unauthorized pictures as espionage, confiscate cameras and film, and/or detain the photographer. DPRK border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside the DPRK, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population.

The United States and the DPRK do not have diplomatic and consular relations. Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government cannot provide normal consular services to its citizens in North Korea. The Swedish Embassy, the U.S. Protecting Power in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested, or who have died while there. However, the Protecting Power cannot get U.S. citizens out of jail or pay their criminal fines.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for North Korea, and the current Worldwide Caution, which are located on the Department’s Internet travel website.  U.S. citizens can obtain current information on safety and security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada, +1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).