Yough Pioneer Tours

The North Korean Passport

As a traveller who has been to over 140 countries (and counting), my most treasured possession is my passport, and indeed I have something of an interest in passports in general. You might call me a visaphile, a term that I’m sure will never be confused with anything else.

One of my hobbies is checking out the passports of other nations. I don’t know why I find this fascinating, but as so often happens, I digress.

I’ll never forget one of my first train journeys to North Korea: by complete happenstance, I happened to be sharing the carriage with the North Korean national football team, as represented by Sobaeksu Football Club. During the course of our conversation I got my first chance to check out the North Korean passport: a little blue book with very interesting language.

In the eventuality that you never get to see one up close and personal, here’s a brief description of a North Korean passport.

North Korean passports are navy blue with the national emblem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea emblazoned on the front:

North Korean passport

“조선민주주의인민공화국” (Korean) and “DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA” (English) are inscribed above the emblem, with “려권” (lyeogwon), which means “passport” in the North Korean dialect. Passports are of the 48-page variety.

There are three types of North Korean passport, each a different colour: navy blue for regular travel, green for business travel, and the grand daddy of North Korean passports: the red diplomatic one!

The coolest part of the passport, however, is on the inside. With a British passport the Queen demands the bearer be afforded passage; with North Korea you get the following:

Korean:

이 려권소지자는 조선민주주의인민공화국의 보호를 받습니다. 이 려권소지자를 지장없이 통과시켜 주며 그에게 필요한 편의와 보호를 베풀어 줄것을 모든 관계자들에게 요청하는 바입니다.

English:

The holder of this passport is under the protection of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. All those whom it may concern are hereby requested to allow the holder to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the holder assistance and protection as may be necessary.

When you travel to North Korea by train, it is relatively common to be sharing a cabin with North Korean travellers. If you want to know how important they are – or why they are traveling – catch a glimpse of the color of their passport!

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