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, 2087, and 2094. 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, 2087, and 2094, which were adopted in response to North Korea’s nuclear tests and rocket launches.