North Korea

North Korea (Korean: 조선 Chosŏn), officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK (조선민주주의인민공화국 Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk) is a country in East Asia on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, lying between Korea Bay and the East Sea (Sea of Japan). It borders China to the north, Russia to the north east and South Korea to the south.

WARNING: As of September 2017, North Korea is detaining three American citizens without apparent cause. An American died in June 2017 after apparently being in a coma for the previous 18 months of his North Korean imprisonment. Since 1 September 2017, the U.S. Department of State has banned the use of US passports to travel to North Korea. Exceptions will be granted in a “very limited number of circumstances”; go to travel.state.gov for application information. U.S. citizens visiting North Korea without State Department permission will have their passports invalidated.
(Information last updated Jun 2018)

Travel provides the opportunity to see the last frontier of the Cold War, where a society still runs under a strict Stalinist governance with an emphasis on the military and economic development lags visibly behind the other nations in the region. Tourists may only travel to North Korea as part of a guided tour as independent travel is not permitted. Visitors are constantly monitored in order to ensure their interactions with local people are managed, so as to prevent activities such as taking “unsuitable” photos, criticism of North Korea, disrespect towards the Great Leader, or talking to locals without permission.

About 1,500 Western tourists visit North Korea every year. Most complete the journey without incident, as long as they follow their ever present guides. Incidents have occurred, and when they do then due process is hard to come by. The most likely consequence of any trouble with the authorities is a period of detention before deportation. You should not travel to North Korea if you are not prepared to accept severe limitations on your movement and behaviour.

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North Korea regions – Color-coded map

  Donghae Coast (North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, Kangwon, Kŭmgang-san)
  Baekdu Mountains (Ryanggang, Chagang)
  Pyongan (North P’yongan, South P’yongan, Pyongyang, Shinuiju)
  Hwanghae (North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae, Kaesong)

Map of North Korea

  • 39.019125.7381 Pyongyang (평양시) — the capital city and the former capital of Goguryeo during the Three Kingdoms period
  • 41.783129.7661 Chongjin (청진) — Industrial city in the North East, very rarely visited by tourists
  • 39.916127.5331 Hamhung (함흥시) — Northern city, also rarely on official travel itineraries
  • 39.698125.9061 Kaechon (개천시)
  • 37.966126.551 Kaesong (개성시) — former capital during the Goryeo dynasty
  • 38.733125.41 Nampho (남포시) — industrial centre and port on the western coast
  • 42.344130.3841 Rason (라선시) — Free trade zone on the Russian border, complete with casino
  • 40.1124.41 Sinuiju (신의주시) — bleak industrial city right on the border with China. Probably the easiest ways to look into the country from the outside
  • 39.147127.4461 Wonsan (원산시) — East coast port city slowly opening to tourists, as well as the first ski resort in the country

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