COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) is a highly regimented, repressive Communist state located on the Korean Peninsula between northeast China and the Republic of Korea (South Korea or the ROK), sharing land borders with China, Russia, and South Korea. The border between North and South Korea is closed. The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea. The Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang acts as the United States’ interim protecting power and provides basic consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea. For additional information, please refer to the section on “Special Circumstances” below. Also read the Department of State Fact Sheet on North Korea.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea without proper documentation have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention (see Travel Warning ). You must have a valid passport and a valid DPRK visa to enter North Korea. The U.S. government does not issue letters to private U.S. citizens who wish to apply for DPRK visas. If you plan to enter and depart North Korea through China, you must obtain a multiple-entry visa for China, because a valid Chinese visa is required to enter China after leaving North Korea at the conclusion of your visit. Routine travel from South Korea to North Korea is prohibited. Travel across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges or aid shipments. Commercial airlines do not operate regular flights between South and North Korea.
If you arrive in North Korea without a valid passport and a valid DPRK visa, you may be denied entry, fined, detained, arrested, or imprisoned. North Korea has imposed heavy fines and long prison sentences with hard labor on persons who entered the country without the proper documentation. Even with the proper documentation, visitors may be subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and may not receive appropriate legal protection against inhumane treatment.
Internet access is limited to non-existent, and many hotels do not offer international telephone calls. If you use a cell phone in the DPRK, please keep in mind that mobile telephone networks are operated as a joint venture with the North Korean government. You have no right to privacy in North Korea and should assume your communications are monitored. If you bring electronic media, including USB drives, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or laptops, into North Korea, you must assume that North Korean authorities will review the information on those devices. Please be sure that the information contained on those devices does not violate North Korea’s laws or regulations. If you violate North Korea’s laws, knowingly or unknowingly, you can be harshly punished, even for offenses that would not be illegal in the United States.
Where to Obtain a DPRK Visa: North Korea does not have an embassy in the United States. U.S. citizens and residents planning to travel to North Korea may obtain DPRK visas at the DPRK Embassy in Beijing, China, which will issue visas only upon authorization from the DPRK Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang.
Before departing for China, you may wish to contact the DPRK Embassy in Beijing to confirm it has received authorization from Pyongyang to issue you a visa.
The Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in Beijing
No. 11, Ritan Bei Lu,
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-6639 (Visa Office)
Telephone: (86-10) 65312-1186
Facsimile: (86-10) 6532-6056
If you wish to ask the DPRK whether your application for a visa would be approved, you may address your inquiry to the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York.
The Permanent Representative of the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 972-3105
Facsimile: (212) 972-3154
If you live abroad in a country with diplomatic relations with the DPRK, you could ask the DPRK embassy in that country for visa advice.
HIV/AIDS restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of North Korea.
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.”
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea. Becausethe 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 (see Travel Warning ). In the event of an emergency, family members and friends may be able to reach you through the Embassy of Sweden, the U.S. protecting power in Pyongyang. Please provide your family members and friends the name of the tour company you intend to use, the name of your North Korean host/liaison, the name(s) of your hotel(s), and sufficient information regarding your itinerary so that the Embassy of Sweden can find you in case of emergency. U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea are encouraged to provide this information to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang. You can notify U.S. Embassy Beijing through STEP at this link: the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. You can notify the U.S. Protecting Power by email or telephone:
The Embassy of Sweden (U.S. Protecting Power):
Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Facsimile: (850-2) 3817 663
U.S. Embassy Beijing: The Embassy is located near the Ladies' Street (Nuren Jie) and Laitai Flower Market, opposite the Kempinski Hotel and Lufthansa shopping Center.
U.S. Embassy Beijing
American Citizens Services Unit
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 8531-4000
Facsimile: (86-10) 8531-3300
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86-10) 8531-4000
U.S. Embassy Seoul: The Embassy is located across the street from Sejong Cultural Center and next to the Ministry of Information and Communication/KT Building.
U. S. Embassy Seoul
American Citizen Services Unit
32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Telephone: (82-2) 397-4114
Facsimile: (82-2) 2-397-4101
Emergency after-hours telephone: (82-2) 721-4114.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Please see the sections on “Special Circumstances” and “Criminal Penalties.” Stay up to date by:
Calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries;
Taking some time before travel to consider your personal security; here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: North Korea does not release crime statistics. Violent crime is rare, and street crime against foreigners is uncommon in Pyongyang. Petty thefts have been reported, especially at the airport in Pyongyang.
Do not buy counterfeit and/or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. The purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods is illegal in the United States and may be illegal in North Korea.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime while in North Korea, you should report the crime to your local host/liaison and contact the Embassy of Sweden for assistance. Your local host/liaison should contact the local authorities on your behalf.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: The North Korean system does not operate according to the rule of law, and foreigners should harbor no expectations regarding due process. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population. If you do something considered illegal in North Korea, you may be subject to the North Korean judicial system, which is an instrument of state power and not an independent branch of government. Protections guaranteed under the U.S. legal system do not apply, and possession of a U.S. passport does not confer special status. Your local host/liaison may be able to provide useful guidance.
North Korean security personnel may regard as espionage unauthorized or unescorted travel inside North Korea and unauthorized attempts to speak directly with North Korean citizens. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest you for exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor, for taking unauthorized photographs, 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 Un, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Il Sung. A near-religious cult surrounds treatment of these individuals, and acts that would be deemed unexceptional elsewhere in the world – e.g., placing in the garbage newspapers bearing their photographs – may be deemed disrespectful.
Although North Korea has granted press visas for cultural or sporting events or visits of foreign leaders, officials watch closely to prevent journalists from talking to ordinary people or questioning the policies, actions, or public statements of North Korea’s leadership. North Korea has confiscated objectionable material from foreign journalists. Journalists who engaged in activities that challenged the regime have been deported, arrested, or detained to face criminal charges. For additional information on the lack of freedom of information in North Korea, see Reporters without Borders.
North Korean government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea. Never bring or handle any material, printed or digital, that could be interpreted as critical of, or hostile to, the country or its leadership. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Do not take pictures without explicit authorization. North Korean government authorities may view taking unauthorized pictures as espionage, confiscate cameras and film and/or detain the photographer. Persons violating the laws of North Korea, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Engaging in sexual conduct with minors 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.
Arrest Notification: Please see “Consular Access” below under “Special Circumstances.”
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: North Korea is one of the world’s most reclusive countries. 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, facsimile, and Internet access are unavailable in many areas of the country, and foreigners can expect North Korean officials will monitor their communications.
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. North Korea is subject to multilateral restrictions and sanctions, including those contained in United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2087. In addition, many countries have adopted national sanctions or other measures designed to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs and proliferation activities.
Tourism: 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. Employees of the state, DPRK tour guides operate under tight discipline, are subject to debriefings after contact with each group of foreigners, and are held responsible for any “misbehavior” of foreign tourists assigned to them. 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 North Korean soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist near Mount Kumgang in July 2008. North Korean authorities suspended tours to the city of Kaesong in December 2008. In five separate incidents between 2009 and 2013 North Korea arrested six U.S. citizens. Four were arrested for crossing into North Korea without proper documentation, and two who entered on valid visas were arrested inside North Korea on other charges.
Consular Access: The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea. The U.S. government therefore has no means to provide normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens in North Korea. On September 20, 1995, the U. S. government signed a consular protecting power agreement with the Government of Sweden. This agreement allows the Embassy of Sweden in 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.
If you require emergency services, you should inform your North Korean escorts and the Embassy of Sweden. Please see the section above on "Information for Victims of Crime." You are encouraged to carry photocopies of your passport data and photo pages with you at all times so that you have evidence of your U.S. citizenship readily available. The U.S.-DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Embassy of Sweden within four days of an arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen and will allow consular visits by the Swedish Embassy within two days after a request is made. In reality, however, the DPRK government routinely delays or denies consular access.
Customs Regulations: North Korean authorities may seize documents, literature, audio and videotapes, computer equipment, compact discs, and letters deemed by North Korean officials to be intended for religious proselytizing or subversive activities. If you carry religious materials into North Korea, you can be detained, fined, imprisoned, or expelled. It is advisable to contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations or a DPRK embassy or consulate in a third country for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on customs regulations.
Dual Nationality: North Korea does not recognize dual nationality. If you are of Korean heritage – even if you are a U.S. citizen – you may be subject to military obligations and taxes on foreign source income. 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: 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 the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. 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, but U.S. persons are prohibited 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 United States maintains various additional sanctions on North Korea due to its human rights record, nuclear weapons programs, weapons proliferation activities, and other reasons. Exports of military and sensitive dual-use items are prohibited, as are most types of U.S. economic assistance. The United States also abides by multilateral restrictions and sanctions with respect to North Korea, including those contained in United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2087, which were adopted in response to North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches.
For additional information, see the websites of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: If you have medical problems, you should not travel to North Korea. For decades, medical facilities in the DPRK have suffered from a lack of resources and electricity. Medical personnel often have inadequate or outdated skills. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures, but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. If possible, avoid surgery. If you have an accident outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be lengthy and without medical assistance. According to DPRK Customs, most prescription medication may be brought into the country with no restrictions. If you require regular medication, you should bring a sufficient amount for your personal use along with the doctor’s prescription, since most drugs are unavailable locally. Hospitals will expect immediate U.S. dollar cash payment for medical treatment. You cannot use credit cards or 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. It is important to insist on immediate contact with the Embassy of Sweden if you have serious medical problems.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in North Korea. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Medical Evacuations: In the case of a critical illness or accident, immediately contact the Embassy of Sweden, which will attempt to arrange flight clearances for air ambulances performing emergency medical evacuations. Costs for medical air evacuation vary, but according to SOS International, an evacuation from Pyongyang to Beijing averages approximately USD 40,000 including medical personnel (1 doctor and 1 nurse), the aircraft, and clearance costs. The General Bureau of the Koryo Civil Aviation of the DPRK says that it provides around-the-clock service and that requests for air clearance will be granted within 24 hours. If a U.S. citizen with a medical emergency is in Pyongyang, the Embassy of Sweden can usually arrange a medical evacuation to Beijing in one day. If the patient is located outside Pyongyang, it will take longer. Medical evacuation by regularly scheduled airlines can be arranged, but very few flights operate from Pyongyang to Beijing (Air Koryo and Air China), Shenyang (Air Koryo), Shanghai (Air Koryo), and Vladivostok (Air Koryo). 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: You should get all necessary vaccinations prior to traveling to North Korea. You can find information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC Internet site. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website. If you have special dietary requirements, you are advised to bring food with you to North Korea, as the restaurants available to foreigners have limited menus that lack variety and nutritional adequacy.
Companies that may be able to arrange evacuation services include, but are not limited to, those listed below. You 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 ( www.internationalsos.com/en/ )
Telephone: (U.S.) (1-800) 468-5232
Telephone: (China) (86-10) 6462-9100, 6462-9112
Medex Assistance Corporation ( www.medexassist.com )
Telephone: (U.S.) (410) 453-6300 / 6301
Telephone: (Toll free within China) 10-8888-800-527-0218
Telephone: (China) (86-10) 6595-8510)
Telephone: (China) (86-10) 8315-1914.
Telephone: (Shenyang, Liaoning Province) (86-24) 24330678
You can find useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, on the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Also, see our extensive tips and advice on Traveling Safely Abroad.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
Does my policy apply when I'm in North Korea? In China?
Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation from North Korea? From China?
If your policy does not go with you when you travel, you should consider an insurance policy for your overseas trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Road conditions and driving habits in a foreign country can differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning North Korea is provided for general reference only. You are not allowed to drive in North Korea unless you hold a valid DPRK driver’s license. Bicycles are unavailable for rental or purchase. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Foreigners 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 has reached his/her final destination.
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. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for North Korea dated December 2, 2011 with changes in the sections for Entry/Exit Requirements, Smart Traveler Enrollment Program/Embassy Location, Criminal Penalties, and Special Circumstances.