Have you ever wondered about the possibility of traveling to North Korea for business, tourism, study, or any other purpose? Possibly, you have heard that life in the hermit kingdom is different from everyday life in your country. Find out things you must know when you visit North Korea this year.
From the local laws to crimes, you will experience new ways of life in North Korea. The country has banned many things you see in other places. So, you must be careful as a foreigner in North Korea.
In this article, we have outlined 8 incredibly important things you must consider before you travel to North Korea for any reason. These considerations will help keep you within the bounds of South Korea’s consular laws, ensure you are safe and maximize all the fun things you can do in this beautiful Asian country.
In this article
- But first, Where is North Korea?
- Top 8 Things to Consider When Planning To Visit North Korea
- #1. Know the political situation in North Korea before you visit the country
- #2. Entry limits to North Korea
- #3. Honor the leader when you visit North Korea
- #4. Can you visit North Korea?
- #5. Beware of the local laws when you visit North Korea
- #6. Is it safe to visit North Korea?
- #7. Health in North Korea
- #8. Total control
- Tourist attractions to visit in North Korea
- #1. Mount Geumgang
- #2. Norye-ri
- #3. Daecheon Falls
- #4. Sobaeksan National Park
- #5. Boseong Fortress
- #6. Woljeongsan Provincial Park
- #7. Seoraksan National Park
But first, Where is North Korea?
North Korea is a country located in East Asia. The neighbors include South Korea, China, Russia, Japan (by the way, check out 10 reasons to visit Japan, if interested), and the Yellow Sea. North Korea is known for its secretive government, oppressive regime, and dictatorial leaders. It is also well-known for its nuclear weapons program.
The history of North Korea dates back over 5,000 years. Its capital city was established in 2333 BC and is called Pyongyang. In 935 AD, Goryeo became the first dynasty of Korea. By 1392, the Joseon Dynasty took power and ruled Korea until 1910. In 1948, the Soviet Union divided Korea along the 38th parallel, leading to the establishment of North Korea.
In 1945, Kim Il Sung founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after he led his guerrilla army in overthrowing the Japanese occupation forces. He later declared himself president of the DPRK in 1948. His wife, Kim Jong Suk, died in 1994. After his death, she handed over the throne to their son, Kim Jong Eun.
Today, North Korea remains a totalitarian state where citizens live in poverty and repression under the rule of Kim Jong Un. Now you know where North Korea is, her type of government and brief history. Let’s proceed with the things to consider before jetting out to this country on a visa.
Top 8 Things to Consider When Planning To Visit North Korea
From the local laws to the political crises to border limitations, here are the things you must consider before you visit North Korea any day. They include:
- The political situation in North Korea
- Entry limits to North Korea
- Honor the leader
- Can you travel to North Korea?
- Local laws you should know.
- Is it safe in North Korea?
- Health in North Korea
- Total control
#1. Know the political situation in North Korea before you visit the country
There may be relative peace between the two Korean territories. However, technically, the two nations are still at war. Thus, the tension can start with little or no warning. In fact, you must be ready to see military faceoffs anytime in the nation.
Moreover, as a communist nation, your activities in North Korea are under surveillance. Thus, your hotel room, telephones, and fax machines are under security watch.
In addition, do not expect to get news about international political situations in North Korea. Though you may have access to international channels, it is limited, especially in times of crisis. Plus, you will not get news about civil unrest, internal instability, or an escalation of tensions.
#2. Entry limits to North Korea
North Korea placed limits on citizens of some countries entering the country. For instance, South Koreans can not visit North Korea. Other nations under restrictions include Israel, the USA, the UK, and Japan. However, US nationals can now come to North Korea with validation for travel to North Korea from the Department of State.
So, you must be aware of these restrictions before you plan a vacation to North Korea. Otherwise, you will get some punishment from the government.
#3. Honor the leader when you visit North Korea
You must honor the present and past leaders of North Korea if you want to stay peacefully in the country. Any sign of disrespect to the images of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung attracts punishment like expulsions, suspension, or imprisonment. So, you must consider this before entering the country for any reason.
Sometimes, tour groups have to bow solemnly to the statues of the leaders of North Korea, especially when visiting national monuments. You must act respectfully before their images.
#4. Can you visit North Korea?
Ask yourself this question, or you may get into trouble in North Korea. North Korea has strange rules which every visitor must obey. Any act of dissension may fetch you or your tour guide killed.
Tourism in North Kore is different from what you experience in other countries. Your movement is under government control. Plus, your tour is under the Korean International Travel Company, and it provides guides for you. Simply put, you don’t have the freedom to tour North Korea the way you want.
In other words, you cannot have an independent tour in North Korea. You cannot leave your hotel room without your guide. Plus, you cannot use public transport in the country. Any infringement of the rules by you or your tour guide will attract punishment of death.
#5. Beware of the local laws when you visit North Korea
One thing you must consider before traveling to North Korea is the local laws. Otherwise, you will get into trouble which may lead to your death.
Therefore, you must consider the following local laws while in North Korea. They include:
- Do not travel without an escort except with government authorization.
- Do not talk with Korean citizens without permission.
- Stay with your tour guide always.
- Try to avoid drawing the attention of local authorities
- Avoid unauthorized currency transactions.
- Do not go shopping in stores not designated for foreigners.
- Ask for permission before taking pictures.
#6. Is it safe to visit North Korea?
Despite the political situation in the Korean peninsula, it is still safe to visit North Korea. The government officials will guide you so that you will not be affected by the crises in the country. However, you can still be a victim of petty theft, especially at the airport and the public markets. Otherwise, you can stay in North Korea without being a victim of crime.
#7. Health in North Korea
The North Korean officials will guide you so well in the country that your health will not be at risk. However, you must be aware of certain diseases like malaria and Japanese encephalitis.
There is a high occurrence of water-borne, food-borne, and other infectious diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis, measles, cholera, and rabies. However, you will not have access to street food. Therefore, you don’t have to fear them.
In addition, foot and mouth disease is common. You should be aware of the yellow dust, especially from March to May. It can cause eye, nose, mouth, and throat irritations. Sometimes, it may lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
You can consider vaccination for the flowing disease before visiting North Korea. They include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Tetanus-diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella
#8. Total control
In North Korea, your life is under the total control of local authorities. Once you arrive at the airport, your tour guide will collect your passport and keep it for security reasons. Your travel document must be in good condition and look like the passports of other citizens from your country.
In addition, you will submit your phone to the DPRK border officials and collect it when you leave the country. Plus, you can only visit authorized sites and stores and will not see how the locals live.
In fact, your stay in North Korea is under total surveillance from the government. And you cannot say something against the state. In fact, if you do not have something good to say, don’t talk.
Tourist attractions to visit in North Korea
Despite all the bad things you hear about North Korea, it is still a good place for tourists. From the high mountains to the beautiful beaches to the nature parks, there are many things to do in North Korea as a tourist. See the best attractions to see when you visit North Korea this year.
#1. Mount Geumgang
You will see Mount Geumgang in the city of Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. It is a mountain range that stretches across the border between North and South Korea. It is home to many beautiful natural sights, including waterfalls, forests, caves, and lakes. There are several trails that visitors can take to explore the area.
Norye-ri is a small town located in Kangwon Province. It is known for its beautiful beaches and clear waters. The beach aligns with pine trees and rocky cliffs. Many tourists who visit North Korea go to the area to enjoy the scenery.
#3. Daecheon Falls
Daecheon Falls is a waterfall near the town of Hwacheon in Gangwon Province. It flows down a cliff face with a height of about 100 meters. The falls have a small pool where people can swim.
#4. Sobaeksan National Park
Sobaeksan National Park is a national park located in Chungbuk Province. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The park offers visitors stunning views of Mt. Sobaek and the surrounding mountains.
#5. Boseong Fortress
Boseong Fortress is a fortress located in Boseong County, Gyeongsangnam Province. It is best known for being the site of the Battle of Baengnyeong during the Korean War. Today, the fortress serves as a museum dedicated to military history.
#6. Woljeongsan Provincial Park
Woljeongsan Provincial Park is a provincial park located in Gangwon Province. The park features hiking paths, streams, and grasslands.
#7. Seoraksan National Park
Seoraksan National Park is a mountainous national park located in Gangwon province. It is famous for its beautiful lakes and green valleys.
In conclusion, life in North Korea looks different from other places you have visited. Therefore, you must consider all the things we listed above. Otherwise, your life will be in danger in the country.