Thank you, U.S. State Department, for issuing this warning for me. In any case, I’ll be in North Korea within the next 12 hours!
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against entering North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK), without first having received explicit official permission and an entry visa from the Government of North Korea. The North Korean government will prosecute and sentence those who enter the DPRK without proper documentation. North Korea’s penalties for knowingly or unknowingly violating North Korean laws are much harsher than are those in the United States for similar offenses. 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. The United States and the DPRK do not have diplomatic and consular relations.
Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea without proper documentation, 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 without the necessary documents. Three were charged with illegal entry and “crimes against the State.” Three were sentenced to long prison terms with hard labor under hazardous conditions, and one also received a significant fine.
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 in Pyongyang is the U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea. It provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested, or who have died while there. As with other host nations, consular officials cannot obtain the release of U.S. citizens from the host government’s judicial system, i.e., release citizens from foreign prisons, influence the outcome of trials or pay criminal fines.
Even if you are a U.S. citizen entering North Korea with a valid passport and a valid visa for North Korea, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned for knowingly or unknowingly violating the laws of North Korea. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal in the United States, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population. If you travel unescorted inside North Korea without explicit official authorization, North Korean security personnel may view your actions as espionage. Security personnel may also 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.
North Korean authorities have detained foreign nationals who questioned the policies, public statements, or the actions of the current or former leadership of North Korea. North Korean authorities may also view taking unauthorized pictures as espionage, confiscate cameras and film, and/or detain the photographer. North Korean border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure.
The Department strongly encourages U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea to register through the State Department’s travel registration website at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. citizens should 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 may also obtain updated information on travel 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.