North Korea - Consular Information Sheet
June 12, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic People's Republic
of Korea (North Korea or DPRK) is a highly-centralized Communist
state. Tourist facilities are not widely available. Tourism in
North Korea is permitted only in officially organized groups authorized
by the Government of North Korea. Independent tourism is not permitted.
Telephone and other communications are limited. In recent years,
North Korea has experienced lower crop production and other economic
difficulties, which have resulted in serious shortages of food,
electrical power, clean water and medicine. A broad spectrum of
countries, including the United States, has contributed to international
INTERIM CONSULAR PROTECTING POWER: The United States does
not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea.
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
for consular protection by the Swedish Embassy of U.S. citizens
traveling in North Korea. In this capacity, the Swedish Embassy
in the capital city Pyongyang endeavors to provide basic consular
protective services to U.S. citizens traveling or residing in
North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested or who may die. Since
1998, four U.S. citizens have been detained by North Korean authorities.
Consular access has not always been granted readily, and there
have been allegations of mistreatment while in custody, as well
as the requirement to pay large fines to obtain release. U.S.
citizens should therefore evaluate carefully the implications
for their security and safety when deciding whether to travel
to North Korea. See "Consular Access" section below
for further information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. passports are valid for travel
to North Korea. 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
to North Korea must obtain in advance a Chinese visa valid for
at least two entries prior to their arrival in the region. A valid
Chinese visa is essential for both entry into China en route to
North Korea, as well as departure from North Korea by air or land
to China at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency. Travel
across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea
is not permitted. 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. Payment for travel costs by Americans in
North Korea must be made in U.S. dollars at inflated prices. Payment
may be required as well for the costs of security personnel assigned
to escort foreign visitors.
U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea should carry only valid
U.S. passports bearing the proper North Korean visa. Under no
condition should U.S. citizens bring with them to North Korea
any document that identifies them as citizens or residents of
either the Republic of Korea (South Korea) or the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (North Korea). There is currently no way to
replace a lost or stolen U.S. passport in North Korea.
There is no North Korean embassy or consulate in the United States.
U.S. citizens and residents planning travel to North Korea must
obtain North Korean visas in third countries. For information
about entry requirements and restricted areas, contact the North
Korean Mission to the United Nations in New York. Address inquiries
to the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea to the United Nations, 820 Second Avenue, New York, New
York 10017, tel: (1-212) 972-3105; fax: (1-212) 972-3154, or contact
the North Korean embassy in a country that maintains relations
with North Korea.
U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea usually obtain their visas
at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, China, which will only
issue visas after authorization has been received from the North
Korean Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang, the capital city. Prior
to traveling to the region, travelers may wish to confirm with
the North Korean Embassy by telephone at (86-10) 65321186, 65321189,
65325018, 65324308, or 65321154 (fax: 65326056), that authorization
to issue visas has been received from Pyongyang.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction,
many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.
These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship
and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal
guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even
if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry
photo-copies of their passport data and photo pages with them
at all times so that, if questioned by DPRK officials, proof of
U.S. citizenship is readily available to DPRKauthorities and Swedish
protecting power officials. The U.S.-North Korea 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. In practice, however, consular
access has not been readily granted. In one case in 1998, an American
was held for nearly two months and was finally expelled from the
DPRK without ever having been seen by Swedish authorities, despite
repeated requests for access. In another case of an American detained
in 1999, a consular visit was not permitted until more than a
month into the detention, the American was not permitted to speak
English during the visit, and his Korean-language statements were
mistranslated by North Korean security personnel. In cases where
consular access has been granted to a U.S. citizen detained for
the long term, however, DPRK authorities have typically permitted
consular visits as frequently as requested to ensure the prisoner's
welfare. The interim consular agreement also provides that the
detainee may be given parcels containing food, medicine, clothing,
and reading and writing materials. These services are also provided
by the Swedish Protecting Power.
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
and do not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
are strict, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences
Unescorted travel by Americans to any region of North Korea without
explicit authorization may be viewed by North Korean security
personnel as espionage. Foreigners are subject to fines or arrest
for unauthorized currency transactions or for shopping other than
at stores specially designated for use by foreigners. It is a
criminal act in North Korea to show disrepect to the country's
current and former leaders, Kim Jung-Il and Kim Il-Sung.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens of North or South Korean
ethnicity may be considered by North Korean officials to be dual
nationals or even North Korean (DPRK) citizens and may therefore
be treated more harshly under DPRK laws. These laws may impose
special obligations upon North Korean nationals, such as military
service or taxes. U.S. citizens of North or South Korean origin
may be charged with offenses allegedly committed prior to their
original departure from North Korea. U.S. citizens should refer
to the paragraph on consular access regarding their rights. For
additional information, see the
Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov
for our Dual Nationality flyer.
INFORMATION ON CRIME: The North Korean government does
not release statistics on crime. Foreigners residing in Pyongyang
report that street crime is rare; however, there have been some
reports of petty theft, especially at the airport in Pyongyang.
Worsening economic conditions may result in increased crime rates.
Lost or stolen passports should be reported to the local police
and to the Swedish Embassy as interim U.S. protecting power. Useful
information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal
security while abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet,
A Safe Trip Abroad, available
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, or via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND INSURANCE: Persons with medical
problems should be aware that, because of continuing economic
hardship, the level of medical care falls far below U.S. standards,
and medical care for Americans who become ill or injured in North
Korea, including emergency medical evacuation, is generally not
available. Hospitals in Pyongyang and other cities often lack
heat, medicine, and even basic supplies, and suffer from frequent
power outages. Hospitals do not have food for patients. Functioning
telephones are not widely available, making it difficult to summon
assistance in a medical emergency. Americans should not bring
personal medications to North Korea without written authorization
from the North Korean Embassy in a third country or the North
Korean Mission to the United Nations in New York. Absent such
permission, persons requiring regular medication should not travel
to North Korea. Hospitals will expect immediate U.S. dollar cash
payment for medical treatment.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United
States and usually does not cover medical evacuations. The Medicare/Medicaid
program does not provide payment for medical services outside
the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific
overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation,
may prove useful, although medical evacuation from Pyongyang to
China would require several days to arrange and evacuation by
air from other areas of North Korea is often not feasible. The
Embassy of Sweden, acting as protecting power for the United States,
would attempt to arrange flight clearances when needed for air
ambulances performing emergency medical evacuations, a time-consuming
process. Medical evacuation by regularly scheduled airlines would
be limited to the very small number of flights that currently
operate from Pyongyang to Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang, and Macau.
Chinese visas for injured foreigners and any escorts must be obtained
in advance of travel from North Korea to China, even in a medical
emergency. Evacuation across the DMZ to South Korea is not a viable
In 1999 an injured South Korean national was transported from
Pyongyang to China and then to Seoul by SOS International (U.S.
telephone: (1-800) 468-5232; China telephone: (86-10) 6462-9100),
using a Chinese-registered air ambulance based in Beijing, at
a cost of over US$80,000. Other reputable medical evacuation providers
in China with access to the same Chinese-registered ambulance
aircraft include Medex Assistance Corporation (U.S. telephone:
(1-800) 537-2029; China telephone: (86-10) 6465-1264), and GlobalDoctor
(China telephone: (86-21) 64311541, (86-21) 64311537, (86-10)
83151914). 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. A list of travel insurance companies
is also available on
the State Department's web page at http://travel.state.gov.
(The Department of State can assume no responsibility for the
professional ability or reputation of these companies, and cannot
pay for the medical evacuation of private U.S. citizens.)
General information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov,
and autofax service at (1-202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: All needed vaccines should be
administered prior to traveling to North Korea. Vaccine recommendations
and disease prevention information for traveling abroad are available
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's International
Travelers' Hotline, which may be reached from the United States
at 1-877- FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), via its toll-free autofax
number at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the
CDC Internet site at: http://www.cdc.gov/. In addition, travelers
should bring food with them to North Korea as the few restaurants
available to foreigners are often closed for lack of supplies
and in any case have limited menus that lack variety and nutritional
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
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Nonexistent
Foreigners are not allowed to drive in North Korea. Streets are
often unlit due to electricity shortages. Taxis are not generally
available, and cars are often in dangerous disrepair. Pyongyang
has a functioning subway; however, city buses are often idled
due to lack of fuel. Roads outside of cities are extremely hazardous.
North Korea is dependent on rail transportation; however, rail
delays are frequent, including on the line from Pyongyang to Dandong
(China). Bicycles are unavailable for rental or purchase. Local
citizens may be unwilling to assist Americans injured in road
accidents for fear of repercussions following any unauthorized
interaction with foreigners.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, or economic activity
to operate such service, between the U.S. and North Korea, the
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed North
Korea's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international
aviation safety standards for oversight of North Korea's air carrier
operations. For further information, travelers may contact the
Department of Transportation within the U.S. at (1-800)322-7873,
or visit the
FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact DOD at (1-618)-229-4801.
On February 11, 1998, the FAA approved an Amendment to Special
Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 79 to allow U.S. carriers to
overfly a sector of North Korean oceanic airspace on commercial
routes into Seoul, South Korea. The SFAR Amendment permits only
overflight and not landing privileges. In the remote event that
a U.S. air carrier flying in North Korea's oceanic airspace should
have to make an emergency landing in North Korea, the Swedish
Protecting Power would endeavor to provide assistance to U.S.
NORTH KOREAN CUSTOMS REQUIREMENTS: DPRK authorities may
seize documents, literature, audio and video tapes, compact discs,
and letters that they deem 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.
Information concerning laws governing items that may be brought
into North Korea may be available from the North Korean Mission
to the United Nations or from a North Korean embassy or consulate
in a third country.
SECURITY: The activities and conversations of foreigners
in North Korea are closely monitored by government security personnel.
Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and
personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Photographing
roads, bridges, airports, rail stations, or anything other than
designated public tourist sites can be perceived as espionage
and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention.
Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained or expelled
for activities that would not be considered crimes in the U.S.,
including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political
activities or engaging in unauthorized travel or interaction with
the local population. Since 1998, four U.S. citizens have been
detained by North Korean authorities. Consular access has not
always been granted readily, and there have been allegations of
mistreatment while in custody, as well as the requirement to pay
large fines to obtain release.
U.S. GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST NORTH KOREA:
On June 19, 2000, the U.S. implemented an easing of economic sanctions
against North Korea. The easing of sanctions allows a wide range
of exports and imports of U.S. and North Korean commercial and
consumer goods. Imports from North Korea are allowed, subject
to an approval process. Direct personal and commercial financial
transactions are allowed between U.S. and North Korean citizens.
Restrictions on investment have also been eased. Commercial U.S.
ships and aircraft carrying U.S. goods will be allowed to call
at North Korean ports.
The easing of sanctions does not affect U.S. counterterrorism
or nonproliferation controls on North Korea, which prohibit exports
of military and sensitive dual-use items and most types of U.S.
assistance. Statutory restrictions, such as U.S. missile sanctions,
remain in place. Restrictions on North Korea based on multilateral
arrangements also remain in place.
Regulations effecting the easing of sanctions have been issued
by the Departments of Treasury, Commerce and Transportation, are
published in the June 19, 2000, Federal
Register, and can be found on the Internet at http://www.nara.gov./fedreg.
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.treas.gov/ofac
or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at (1-202) 622-0077, which is
available by telephone or by using a fax machine phone, the U.S.
Department of Commerce, Bureau
of Export Administration at http://www.bxa.doc.gov, and the
U.S. Department of Transportation at http://www.dot.gov.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone
EMBASSY LOCATION AND REGISTRATION: There is no U.S. embassy
or consulate in North Korea. The Embassy of Sweden, which acts
as U.S. Protecting Power, is located at: Munsu-Dong District,
Pyongyang. The telephone and fax numbers, which are frequently
out of order due to poor telecommunications in the DPRK, are:
Tel: (850-2) 381-7908; Fax: (850-2) 381-7258. U.S. citizens contemplating
living in or visiting North Korea are encouraged to register in
person, by telephone or fax with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing,
China, and to obtain updated information on travel and security
within North Korea. The
Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing is located
at 2 Xiushui Dongjie, Beijing 100600; telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431;
after hours: (86-10) 6532-1910; fax: (86-10) 6532-4153; e-mail
AmCitBeijing@state.gov. It is also possible to register from the
United States via the Internet through the
U.S. Embassy's home page at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn.