One of the questions we often get asked as guides to North Korea is if North Koreans are allowed to travel outside of the country. The answer, like most things in the DPRK, is somewhat complex. The simple short answer is that much like in other Soviet, socialist, or Eastern Bloc countries, they can travel with permission from the government.
North Korea, much like Cuba until a few years ago, issue exit permits to those that wish to travel to other countries.
So do many North Koreans travel?
Contrary to popular belief, a hell of a lot of North Koreans actually travel abroad; in Dandong you will see hundreds of North Korean businessmen wandering the streets, particularly in the ‘Koreatown’ part of the city.
Do North Koreans work abroad?
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. The Pyongyang restaurant franchise is, in of itself, a really interesting case in point – if you visit one of the many in China (or further afield) it can be fascinating to chat to the beautiful North Korean waitresses.
What other travel do North Koreans do?
It is very much a common misconception that North Korea is cut off from the rest of the world; they are actually, in fact, quite involved on the world stage and many of them travel for work-based assignments. I’ve met many North Koreans whilst they are on their way to trade and industry fairs.
North Korea has almost 60 overseas missions, all manned by North Korean consular staff.
Do North Koreans travel for tourism?
The short answer is yes, with there even being a North Korean travel agency that arranges trips (mainly to China) for North Koreans. Of course, these tend not to be your average Koreans!.