Updated: March 26, 2020
One of the questions we often get asked as guides, are North Koreans are allowed to travel abroad. The simple short answer, like most things in the DPRK, is somewhat complex. Much like in other Soviet, socialist, or Eastern Bloc countries, North Koreans can travel abroad with permission from the government. If you have been on tour to North Korea with us before it is not uncommon, either at Dandong Station or the Air Koryo Check-in Counter, at Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 2 to see scores of North Koreans travelling home often with boxes and boxes of goods to take back home with them.
Why do North Koreans Travel Abroad?
The most common reasons for North Koreans to be travelling abroad are for work, business, trade or to study.
Contrary to popular belief a lot of North Koreans work abroad; labourers in Russia, chefs and waitresses in North Korean restaurants and footballers in foreign leagues (such as Japan and Russia) all fly the DPRK flag beyond its borders.
There is a large number of North Korean students abroad, especially in China. These students are often studying Chinese language or sciences such as chemistry and physics. Beijing, Shenyang and Yangji all have massive North Korean student populations.
North Korea has almost 60 overseas missions, all operated by North Korean consular staff. Countries that have North Korean embassies include the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, to name a few. If you are a citizen of a country with a North Korean embassy, it is even possible to get the North Korean visa sticker issued in your passport before your trip to the country. If you are visiting a country with a North Korean embassy and missing North Korean food such as Pyongyang cold noodles, make sure to check the area around the embassy as you can often find North Korean restaurants that cater to the embassy staff.
North Koreans Abroad in New York City
Do North Koreans travel abroad for leisure?
It is not common for most North Koreans to travel abroad for the sole purpose of leisure or vacation. This does not mean, however, that when they go on business or study abroad, they do not reserve time for leisure. North Koreans also take time in the sights, sounds and culinary of the destination they are in. Sometimes, this is even arranged as a part of the trip. For example, some of our partners in Pyongyang attended a tourism conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few years back. They were very eager to show us photos of the boat cruise they took in Halong Bay at the end of the conference.
Do North Korean’s Travel Domestically?
Yes, they do. This is one of the fastest-growing markets within North Korea right now. There is a number of travel companies over the last few years setting up focusing only on domestic tourism. As the country and its people continue to have more disposable, the desire to see parts of their own country has grown highly. Some of the most popular places for North Koreans to travel domestically are Maskikryong Ski Resort, Wonsan Beach, Kumgangsan Mountain range, Chilbosan Mountain Range and, of course, the ever sacred Mount Paektu.
So there you have it. Yes, it is possible for North Koreans to travel abroad and if you spend enough time in places like China or Russia you will most likely at some point run into a North Korean. To see North Korea for yourself join us on one of many of our group tours..