Safety and security
Since the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula has been partitioned. At the end of the Korean War in 1953, this partition was enforced when a 4km-wide de-militarised zone (DMZ) was created to separate North and South Korea. Peace has been maintained under an Armistice Agreement, however tensions rise and fall from time to time, and there have been infrequent military incidents, particularly along the DMZ border and maritime boundaries.
Following the fatal shooting in July 2008 of a South Korean tourist who reportedly strayed into a restricted military area while visiting North Korea, we recommend that you always stay in permitted areas and obey immediately any instructions from North Korean officials.
Foreign nationals have been arrested and detained in North Korea for activity which may not be deemed an offence in other countries.
North Korea carried out underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. They lead to an increase in political and military tension on the peninsula. There has been no evidence of radiation fall-out from these tests.
The threat from terrorism in North Korea is low but there is always the risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks anywhere in the world.
Levels of crime against foreigners in North Korea are low and highly supervised group travel keeps visitors safe from crime. However, you should take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
We’ve seen examples of scams involving ‘property deals’ in North Korea. This should immediately arouse suspicion as it’s virtually impossible for foreigners to own property in the country.
Other risks include being detained at international airports for currency violations; being held against your will; being involved in a road accident (frequently in or around the airport); needing unexpected legal or court fee payments; or hospitalisation.
The normal advice applies: common sense and no transfer of funds to strangers. If in doubt, refer the person to the nearest relevant Embassy or consular office.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in North Korea, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Seoul if you need help.
Infrastructure in North Korea is poor and dilapidated, which makes long distance travel challenging. If you’re planning on driving in North Korea, you’ll need a local licence, obtained by passing a local driving test. International driving licences are not valid in North Korea
A limited number of taxis are sometimes available from hotels or outside department stores. However, they’re often reluctant to take you without a local guide/interpreter.
Fri, 13 May 2016 11:52:18 BST