The U.S. Department of State just released a warning to all American Citizens traveling in Asia. In the email sent to citizens registered with the Embassy, a strongly worded warning discourages Americans from traveling in or around North Korea right now; the penalties described are “imprisonment or death”!
Clearly, the U.S. Government knows that something big is about to happen. The military is mobilizing within the country, and tensions are heating up between the North and the South. By the tone of this warning I would advise any foreigners to stay out of North Korea at this point. This might sound strange to some, but a few groups do take mercy missions teams into North Korea, as well as western NGOs who organize officially sanctioned development, education and medical projects in North Korea. This warning seems to indicate that all foreign workers should steer clear of North Korea for the time being. Please pray for foreign workers currently inside North Korea, that they won’t be trapped inside the country during a difficult or dangerous time.
The following is the text of the email warning sent by the U.S. Department of State:
“The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens about travel to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. Since January 2009, four U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering North Korea illegally, and two U.S. citizens who entered on valid DPRK visas were arrested inside North Korea on other charges. This replaces the Travel Warning issued for North Korea on September 11, 2012, and it reminds U.S. citizens about the serious risks involved in traveling to the DPRK.
The Government of North Korea has not only imposed heavy fines on, but has also detained, arrested, and imprisoned persons who violated DPRK laws, such as entering the country illegally. Travelers to North Korea must enter the DPRK with a valid passport and valid DPRK visa. 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. North Korean security personnel may regard as espionage unauthorized or unescorted travel inside North Korea and unauthorized attempts to speak directly to North Korean citizens. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest travelers for exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at sto
res not designated for foreigners. It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country’s former leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, or to the current leader, Kim Jong Un.
If North Korean authorities permit you to keep your cell phone upon entry to the country, please keep in mind that you have no right to privacy in North Korea and should assume your communications are monitored. It is a criminal act to bring printed or electronic media criticizing the DPRK government into the country. 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. North Korea’s penalties for knowingly or unknowingly violating North Korea’s laws are much harsher than U.S. penalties for similar offenses. Sentences for crimes can include years of detention in hard labor camps or death.
Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea. The Embassy of Sweden, the U.S. Protecting Power in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested, or who have died while there. 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. However, the DPRK government routinely delays or denies consular access.
U.S. citizens who plan to travel to North Korea are strongly encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, about their trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) . If you enroll in this program, the State Department can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. Enrollment also makes it easier for friends and family to get in touch with you in an emergency via the U.S. Embassy
U.S. citizens residing in China can contact the U.S. Embassy in Beijing directly:
U. S. Embassy Beijing: The Embassy is located next to the Ladies’ Street (Nuren Jie) and Laitai Flower Market, opposite the Kempinski Hotel and Lufthansa shopping Center on Tianze Road near the Liangmaqiao subway stop.
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. citizens traveling to North Korea are also strongly encouraged to contact the Embassy of Sweden by telephone or email prior to travel. Please provide the Embassy of Sweden with your name, date of birth, dates of your trip, and emergency contact information:
Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea)
- U.S. Intelligence Chief ‘Very Concerned’ on North Korea (bloomberg.com)