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State Department: Make funeral arrangements if visiting North Korea

Undated photo from North Korean News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting a Korean People's Army unit, in an undisclosed location, North Korea. Photo released August 2017. (Balkis Press/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 15, 2018

The State Department is warning all Americans who want to visit North Korea or other high-risk areas that they are risking the safety of their own lives and should have all their affairs in order before visiting the country.

According to the State Department’s new travel advisories for U.S. travelers, dated Jan. 10, Americans should not visit North Korea  “due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.”

North Korea is designated by the State Department as having a level four “Do Not Travel” advice rating.

“This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks,” the travel advisory reads. “During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.”

Department of State - State Department: Make funeral arrangements if visiting North Korea

Department of State (Twitter)

“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,” the State Department said. “Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency services. The North Korean government routinely delays or denies Swedish officials access to detained U.S. citizens.”

Individuals cannot travel to North Korea without being approved for a special validation by the U.S. State Department.

Those Americans visiting North Korea or other level four high-risk areas are cautioned to get all of their affairs in order before traveling.

“Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney,” the advisory reads. “Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.”

Those traveling to high-risk areas should sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive alerts and make it easier to locate them. They should also have contingency plans in case of an emergency.

Other countries listed as a level-four high risk area include Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

People visiting countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are told to “share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs, if you are unable to return as planned to the United States.”

They are also told to “establish your own personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization, or consider consulting with a professional security organization.”

The State Department’s new travel advisory comes just two months after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. is designating North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism.