The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) shares borders with China, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the demilitarized zone (separating it from the Republic of Korea). North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, was completely rebuilt after the Korean War as a city of wide avenues, neatly designed parks and enormous marble public buildings. The Palace of Culture, the Grand Theatre, the Juche Tower and the Ongrui Restaurant epitomize the Korean variant of Communist architecture. The Gates of Pyongyang and the Arch of Triumph are particularly impressive. Many ancient buildings in Kaesong (six hours from the capital by train) bear witness to Korea's 500-year-old imperial history. The town is surrounded by beautiful pine-clad hills. Kumgangsan is the country's largest national park, consisting of a range of mountains (known as 'the Diamond Mountain') along the east coast of the country. A night at the opera provides a unique experience. There are also circuses and musical events of a high quality.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a highly militaristic Communist state. The DPRK is one of the world's most isolated countries and has endured the almost total collapse of its once industrialized economy over the past fifteen years. The continuing dispute over North Korea's nuclear programs has increased tensions in the region and between the United States and the DPRK. 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 and fax communications are unavailable in many areas of the country and foreigners can expect their communications to be monitored by DPRK officials. In recent years, North Korea has experienced famine, fuel and electricity shortages, and outbreaks of disease. Many countries have contributed to international relief efforts to assist the people of North Korea.
In recent years, the DPRK has attempted to attract foreign tourists as a means of earning much needed foreign currency, but an underdeveloped service sector, inadequate infrastructure, and political tensions with surrounding countries have stymied these efforts. North Korea's efforts to expand tourism have focused primarily on group tours from China, Japan and particularly South Korea to the Mount Kumgang tourist area. Tourism in Korea (Dem Rep) is currently permitted only in officially organized groups. Visas can be obtained through officially recognized travel companies or the nearest Korea (Dem Rep) embassy.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Valid passport is required by all, including nationals of Korea (Dem Rep). North Korean visas are required for entry by all, including nationals of Korea (Dem Rep).
Types of visa and cost: Ordinary and Tourist: Ј30.
Application to: Consular section of the General Delegation of the DPRK or of the nearest Korean Embassy. Applications should be made by an officially recognized tour operator.
Application requirements: (a) Valid passport. (b) One passport-size photo. (c) One completed application form. (d) Tour confirmation from recognized travel company. (e) Proof of sufficient funds to cover stay. (f) Copy of applicant's passport.
Working days required for visa issue: Approximately 20 days.
Note: For stays of over 24 hours registration with the MFA is required, although most hotels and travel agents will automatically do this for the visitor. It is advisable to contact the nearest embassy prior to departure for further details.
Note: The U.S. Government does not issue letters to private Americans seeking North Korean visas, even though in the past such letters have sometimes been requested by DPRK Embassies. As most travelers enter North Korea from China, prospective travelers must also obtain a two-entry visa for China. A valid Chinese visa is essential for departing from North Korea at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency.
While the Republic of Korea government is attempting to open direct travel routes to the DPRK, routine travel from the Republic of Korea to the DPRK is currently prohibited. Travel across the demilitarized zone is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges. There are no regularly operating direct commercial flights from South to North Korea at this time.
U.S. citizens who arrive in North Korea without a valid U.S. passport and North Korean visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry. Individuals traveling to North Korea report that fees for local travel costs (taxi, tolls, permits and the cost for security personnel assigned to escort foreigner visitors) can be high and arbitrary.
Where to obtain a North Korean visa in the US: There is no DPRK embassy in the United States. U.S. citizens and residents planning travel to North Korea must obtain DPRK visas in third countries. For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations in New York.