Foreign travel advice

North Korea

Summary

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to North Korea (DPRK).

Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula following a series of North Korean ballistic missile tests in 2016 and 2017, including 2 intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July 2017, 2 nuclear tests in 2016 and a nuclear test on 3 September 2017. There remains a threat of further missile or nuclear tests, which could lead to further instability in the region.

While daily life in the capital city Pyongyang may appear calm, the security situation in North Korea can change with little notice and with no advance warning of possible actions by the North Korean authorities. This poses significant risks to British visitors and residents.

In March 2017, during a period of political tensions between North Korea and Malaysia, the North Korean authorities imposed restrictions preventing Malaysian nationals from leaving the country. These restrictions have since been lifted. However, if the security situation deteriorates or international tensions rise, there is an increased risk of this type of action by the North Korean authorities, such as preventing British nationals from leaving the country.

You should follow the political and security situation very closely and stay in touch with your host organisation or tour operator. See Political situation

If you’re living in North Korea or decide to travel there independently, you should inform the British Embassy in Pyongyang about your travel plans before, or on arrival.

You can’t enter or leave North Korea through the border with South Korea without special permission.

The British Embassy Pyongyang can currently provide some consular assistance to British visitors to Pyongyang, but only limited assistance to those visiting parts of the country outside the capital. This is due to restricted access. In the event of instability or a worsening of the security situation, the ability of the British Embassy to provide consular assistance could be significantly reduced.

Some foreign nationals have reportedly not been granted access to consular support when detained in North Korea.

Very few British people visit North Korea and those that do are usually part of an organised tour. If you decide to visit North Korea, follow the advice of your tour group and the local authorities. Failure to do so could put your personal safety at risk and lead to a severe punishment from the local authorities.

Offences that would be considered trivial in other countries can incur very severe penalties in North Korea, particularly actions the authorities deem to be disrespectful towards the North Korean leadership or government. In recent years the North Korean authorities have arrested some visitors on these grounds, including 4 US citizens and 1 Canadian. Some individuals have been publicly put on trial by the DPRK.

On 16 March 2016 a US national was sentenced to 15 years hard labour after a conviction for crimes against the state. He was alleged to have attempted to steal a political slogan from the staff quarters of a main tourist hotel. On 13 June 2017, he was released and returned to the US in a coma. He died on 19 June 2017.

On 7 May 2017, a US national was arrested for an unknown offence. On 22 April 2017, a US national was arrested at Pyongyang airport for an unspecified hostile act.

In a separate case in 2016, a British national was temporarily detained and prevented from leaving the country for a period of time because of actions which were perceived as disrespectful. See Local laws and customs

Flooding is common in the rainy season (July to August). See Natural Disasters

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in North Korea, attacks can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.