Saturday 24 February 2018

US Citizens visiting North Korea should make a will and plan funeral, State Department warns

Travel Advice

NORTH KOREA: Traffic officer in Pyongyang, where there are no traffic lights. Photo by Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
NORTH KOREA: Traffic officer in Pyongyang, where there are no traffic lights. Photo by Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Pyongyang Teacher Training College yesterday. Photo: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Photo: Reuters
Pyongyang skyline. Photo: Deposit
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Americans seeking to visit North Korea should draft a will and make preparations for their death, the US Department of State has advised.

The Department has updated its travel advice for US citizens, recommending that they "draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney".

Citizens visiting North Korea should also "discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork etc.), funeral wishes, etc." it says.

US citizens cannot use an American passport to travel to North Korea without a special validation from the State Department.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Pyongyang Teacher Training College yesterday. Photo: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Photo: Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Pyongyang Teacher Training College yesterday. Photo: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Photo: Reuters

Such validations are only granted in very limited circumstances - for journalists, humanitarian staff or representatives of the Red Cross, for example.

Last year, 23-year-old American student Otto Warmbier died days after returning from North Korea in a coma. He had been detained for more than a year after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster.

US citizens have been banned from visiting since September 1, 2017.

"The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in North Korea as it does not have diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea," it adds.

Pyongyang skyline. Photo: Deposit
Pyongyang skyline. Photo: Deposit
NORTH KOREA: Traffic officer in Pyongyang, where there are no traffic lights. Photo by Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Sweden serves as the protecting power for the US in North Korea, providing limited emergency services. However, the State Department says North Korea's government "routinely delays or denies Swedish officials access to detained U.S. citizens".

"The Department strongly urges U.S. citizens not to go to North Korea due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention," it adds.

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