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Travel Security Advice for North Korea

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N._Korea_mapNorth_Korea_Overview


Citizens planning to transit China on their visit to North Korea are encouraged to register on line with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing; U. S. citizens visiting North Korea should also register with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang (U.S. Protecting Power). Please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) is a highly militaristic Communist state located on the Korean Peninsula between northeast China and the Republic of Korea (South Korea or ROK), with land borders with China, Russia and South Korea. The DPRK is one of the world’s most isolated countries. The continuing dispute over North Korea’s development of nuclear programs and nuclear weapons has resulted in tensions in the region and between the United States and the DPRK. North Korea limits trade and transportation links with other countries and tightly restricts the circumstances under which foreigners may enter the country and interact with local citizens. Telephone and fax communications are unavailable in many areas of the country and foreigners can expect their communications to be monitored by DPRK officials. In the past few years, North Korea has experienced famine, flooding, fuel and electricity shortages, and outbreaks of disease. Many countries, including the United States, have contributed to international relief efforts to assist the people of North Korea.

Foreign tourists are a means for North Korea to earn much needed foreign currency, but an underdeveloped service sector, inadequate infrastructure, and political tensions with surrounding countries have stymied any significant tourist flow. North Korean efforts to expand tourism have focused primarily on group tours from China. The South Korean government suspended tours originating from South Korea to the Mount Kumgang tourist area after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier near Mount Kumgang in July 2008. Tours to the city of Kaesong were suspended by North Korean authorities in December 2008. Two American citizens were arrested along North Korea’s border with China in March 2009 for crossing into North Korea, highlighting the importance of caution along the nation’s borders.

The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK. The Swedish Embassy located in Pyongyang acts as the United States’ interim protecting power and provides basic consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea. Please refer to Special Circumstances for additional information.

Read the Department of State Background Notes on North Korea for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea.

U.S. citizens planning to visit North Korea are encouraged to register prior to departing the United States with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing if entering North Korea from China. Registration can be done on line through the State Department's travel registration website or in person, by telephone or fax, at the U.S. Embassy.

The Embassy of Sweden (U.S. Protecting Power). Americans who have a medical or consular emergency and who wish to contact the Swedish Embassy are reminded first to communicate this need to their North Korean escorts or guides. Do not attempt to travel to the Swedish Embassy unescorted. The Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power) is located at Munsu-Dong District, Pyongyang. The telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power) are:

Tel:(850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Tel: (850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (First Secretary)
Tel:(850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:(850-2) 3817 663

U.S. Embassy Beijing.

The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, is located at:

No. 55 An Jia Lou Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing. The Embassy is located near the Ladies' Street (Nuren Jie) and Laitai Flower Market, opposite the Kempinski Hotel and Lufthansa shopping Center.

Telephone: (86-10) 8531-4000. Fax: (86-10) 8531-3300. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The Embassy Beijing web site is http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/.

For after-hours emergencies please call (86-10) 8531-4000 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.

U.S. Embassy Seoul.

The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, is located at:

32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul. The Embassy is located across the street from Sejong Cultural Center and next to the Ministry of Information and Communication/KT Building.

Telephone: (82-2) 397-4114. Fax: (82-2) 2-397-4101. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The Embassy Seoul web site is http://seoul.usembassy.gov/.

For after-hours emergencies please call (82-2) 721-4114 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

North Korean visas are required for entry. The U.S. Government does not issue letters to private Americans seeking North Korean visas, even though in the past such letters have sometimes been requested by DPRK embassies. Prospective travelers entering and departing North Korea through China must also obtain a two-entry visa for China, as a valid Chinese visa is essential for departing North Korea at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency. While the ROK government is attempting to open direct travel routes to the DPRK, routine travel from the ROK to the DPRK is currently prohibited. Travel across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges or aid shipments. There are no regularly operating direct commercial flights from South Korea to North Korea. U.S. citizens who arrive in North Korea without a valid U.S. passport and North Korean visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry. Travelers to North Korea report that fees for local travel costs (taxi, tolls, permits and the cost for security personnel assigned to escort foreigner visitors) can be high and arbitrary.

Where to obtain a North Korean visa: There is no DPRK embassy in the United States. U.S. citizens and residents planning travel to North Korea must obtain DPRK visas only at the DPRK embassy in Beijing, China, which will issue visas upon authorization from the DPRK Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang. The address of the DPRK Embassy in Beijing is as follows:

The Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in Beijing
No. 11, Ri Tan Bei Lu,
Jian Guo Men Wai,
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600

It is advisable for would-be travelers to make preliminary inquiries as to whether their application for a visa to the DPRK would be approved. Americans residing in the United States can address their inquiry to the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York at the following address:

The Permanent Representative of the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 972-3105
Fax: (212) 972-3154

Americans living abroad can address their inquiries to the DPRK embassy, if there is one, in their country of residence.

Before departing for China, Americans may wish to confirm that the Embassy of the DPRK in Beijing has received authorization to issue their visa from Pyongyang. Americans can call the Visa Office of the North Korean Embassy in Beijing at (86 -10) 6532 6639. Other numbers for the DPRK Embassy in Beijing are (86-10) 6532-1186 and (86-10) 6532-1189 (fax: (86-10) 6532-6056).

Information on dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet. Please see those sections below under Special Circumstances.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

DPRK government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Do not take pictures unless you are told you can; taking unauthorized pictures can be perceived as espionage and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention. 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.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on worldwide security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 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).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

The North Korean government does not release statistics on crime. Violent crime is rare and street crime is uncommon in Pyongyang. Petty thefts have been reported, especially at the airport in Pyongyang.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the Swedish Embassy. If you are a victim of any crime while in North Korea, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact for assistance:

The Embassy of Sweden,
Munsu-Dong District,
Pyongyang, DPRK

Telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power) are:

Tel:(850-2) 3817 485 (Reception)
(850-2) 3817 904, 907(First Secretary)
(850-2) 3817 908, 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:(850-2) 3817 663
Email:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

See our information on Victims of Crime.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States. Local laws also may not afford the protections available to U.S. citizens under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking local laws can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders often face long jail sentences and heavy fines. North Korean security personnel may view unescorted travel inside North Korea by Americans who do not have explicit official authorization as espionage, especially when the U.S. citizens are originally from South Korea or are thought to understand the Korean language. Security personnel may also view any attempt to engage in unauthorized conversations with a North Korean citizen as espionage. Foreigners are subject to fines or arrest 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, respectively. Foreign journalists have been threatened when questioning the policies or public statements of the DPRK or the actions of the current leadership.

Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see additional information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Interim Protecting Power:

The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK. The U.S. Government therefore cannot provide normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens in North Korea. On September 20, 1995, a consular protecting power arrangement was implemented, allowing the Swedish Embassy in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang to provide basic consular protective services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested or who have died while there.

Consular Access:

There is no United States diplomatic or consular presence in the DPRK. Americans traveling in the DPRK may receive limited consular services from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang. Please see section above on "Information for Victims of Crime" for address and contact information for the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry photocopies of their passport data and photo pages with them at all times so that, if questioned by DPRK officials, evidence of their U.S. citizenship is readily available. The U.S.-DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Swedish Embassy within four days of an arrest or detention of an American citizen and will allow consular visits within two days after a request is made by the Swedish Embassy. However, consular access has not been readily granted in cases where American citizens have been reported as being detained or held against their will by DPRK officials. Moreover, delegations with ethnic Korean individuals, or delegations representing Korean-affiliated organizations in the United States, are handled by DPRK structures that are well beyond the reach of diplomatic missions in Pyongyang. Hence, in case of a situation requiring consular assistance, the Embassy’s access is even more limited.

Customs Regulations: DPRK authorities may seize documents, literature, audio and videotapes, compact discs and letters deemed by North Korean officials to be pornographic, political or intended for religious proselytizing. Persons seeking to enter North Korea with religious materials in a quantity deemed to be greater than that needed for personal use can be detained, fined and expelled. It is advisable to contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations or a DPRK embassy or a DPRK consulate in a third country for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on customs regulations.

Dual Nationality:

The DPRK does not recognize dual nationality. U.S. citizens of Korean heritage may be subject to military obligations and taxes on foreign source income. For further information see our dual nationality flyer. Additional questions on dual nationality may be directed to Overseas Citizens Services, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520 or by telephone at 1-888-407-4747.

U.S. Government Economic Sanctions Against North Korea: At this time, goods of North Korean origin may not be imported into the United States either directly or indirectly without prior notification to and approval of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Most exports to North Korea are subject to licensing by Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to, from and within North Korea and to maintenance within North Korea are authorized, and U.S. travel service providers are allowed to organize group travel to North Korea. Commercial U.S. ships and aircraft carrying U.S. goods are allowed to call at North Korean ports with prior clearance. In May 2006, OFAC began prohibiting U.S. persons from “owning, leasing, operating or insuring any vessel flagged by North Korea.” Full text of the regulation can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/fr/2000/061900-a.txt.

The U.S. maintains various additional sanctions on North Korea for regional stability, human rights, nonproliferation and other reasons. Exports of military and sensitive dual-use items are prohibited, as are most types of U.S. economic assistance. The U.S. also abides by multilateral restrictions and sanctions with respect to North Korea, including those contained in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 adopted in recent years in response to the North Korean nuclear testing and missile launches.

Most other financial transactions between U.S. and North Korean citizens are authorized, provided that they do not involve any individuals or companies on OFAC’s list of specially designated nationals.

For additional information, consult the U.S. Department of the Treasury,
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treasury.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/ and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security home page at http://www.bis.doc.gov/.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Persons with medical problems should not travel to North Korea. For decades, medical facilities in the DPRK have suffered from a lack of resources and electricity, as well as inadequate and often outdated skills among the medical staff. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. Surgery should be avoided. For accidents outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be a lengthy trip without medical assistance. Persons requiring regular medication are encouraged to bring sufficient stocks of drugs for personal use since most drugs are impossible to obtain locally. Hospitals will expect immediate U.S. dollar cash payment for medical treatment. Credit cards are not used in the DPRK. U.S. citizens cannot use checks in the DPRK. Local DPRK hosts are often not aware of options available for medical evacuations and might claim that no such options exist. In case of serious medical problems, it is important to insist on immediate contact with the Swedish Embassy.

Medical Evacuations.

In the case of a critical illness or accident, the Swedish Embassy will attempt to arrange flight clearances for air ambulances performing emergency medical evacuations. Medical air evacuation costs vary, but according to SOS International, an evacuation from Pyongyang to Beijing averages approximately 40,000 USD including medical personnel (1 doctor and 1 nurse), the aircraft and clearance costs. The Civil Aviation Authority does not handle requests for air clearance between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. If a U.S. citizen with medical emergencies is located in Pyongyang, and the medical emergency occurs before 11 p.m., the Swedish Embassy can usually arrange a medical evacuation to Beijing in one day. If the patient is located outside Pyongyang, it would take longer. Medical evacuation by regularly scheduled airlines can be arranged but is limited to the very few flights that operate from Pyongyang to Beijing (Air Koryo and Air China), Shenyang (Air Koryo) and Vladivostok (Air Koryo). There are no regular flights to Dalian and Macau. In order to transit China, Chinese visas for injured foreigners and any escorts must be obtained prior to the evacuation from North Korea. Even in the case of a medical emergency, transit visas may take several days to arrange. Evacuation across the DMZ to South Korea is not allowed.

Vaccinations.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en. Travelers with special dietary requirements are advised to bring food with them to North Korea, as the restaurants available to foreigners may have limited menus that lack variety and nutritional adequacy.

If an American citizen falls ill or is injured while traveling in the DPRK, accompanying travelers or family members should immediately contact the Swedish Embassy using the phone numbers listed below.

The Embassy of Sweden,
Munsu-Dong District,
Pyongyang, DPRK

Telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power) are:

Tel:(850-2) 3817 485 (Reception)
(850-2) 3817 904, 907(First Secretary)
(850-2) 3817 908, 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:(850-2) 3817 663
Email:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notification also should be made to the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit in Beijing, China, using the phone numbers listed below:

U.S. Embassy, Beijing
American Citizen Services
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 8531-4000
Fax: (86-10) 8531-3300.

After hours, please call (86-10) 8531-4000 and ask for the Embassy duty officer. Americans who wish to contact U.S. consular officials in China can e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Companies that may be able to arrange evacuation services include, but are not limited to those listed below. Travelers may wish to contact these or other emergency medical assistance providers for information about their ability to provide medical evacuation insurance and/or assistance for travelers to North Korea.

International SOS (http://www.intsos.com/)
U.S. telephone: (1-800) 468-5232
China telephone: (86-10) 6462-9100, 6462-9112

Medex Assistance Corporation (http://www.medexassist.com/)
U.S. telephone: (410) 453-6300 / 6301
Toll free: 108888-800-527-0218 (call from China)
China telephone: (86-10) 6595-8510)

Global Doctor (http://www.globaldoctor.com.au/index.aspx?language=2)
China telephone:(86-10) 83151914).
(86-24) 24330678 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided on this Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs page Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Also, see our extensive tips and advice on Traveling Safely Abroad.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning North Korea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or situation.

Foreigners not holding a valid DPRK driver’s license are not allowed to drive in North Korea. Foreigners generally are not allowed to use public buses or the subway. North Korea has a functioning rail transport system; however delays occur often, sometimes for days. On occasion, service may cease altogether before a traveler reaches his/her final destination. Bicycles are unavailable for rental or purchase. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and North Korea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed North Korea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/iasa/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 13, 2009, to update the sections for Country Description, Special Circumstances, and Aviation Oversight.

 


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding North Korea HERE.....

 Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........

There is also a Malaria Warning for North Korea HERE....

Regards

The SW Team.....

 

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