When taking the train on an individual tour to North Korea, you're expected to go directly to Pyongyang where the guides meet you up, and they then leave you at Pyongyang station to board the train back.

However, what if one were to disembark the train at an intermediate stop? In this blog for instance the author got off the train at several stations to take photos. What if somehow he had accidentally failed to get back on in time?

  • 35
    I'd imagine that the conductor would be telling the NK authorities straight away that you were not on the train. And the the NK authorities would be searching very quickly for you. And when they found you, you would be in for a world of hurt (EG see Otto Warmbier). What would you expect to happen in a paranoid, totalitarian state?
    – Peter M
    Commented May 5 at 15:04
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    I do not know about trains in North Korea, I do know that sleeper cars in other countries often have the doors locked to stop people from entering without the right tickets. And sleeping wagon staff can easily be at the doors at all stations to only let out those supposed to leave there.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 5 at 17:49
  • @Willeke This is also meantioned in the Beijing to North Korea Traveller's reports 2017 inside the link I posted in my answer. Commented May 5 at 17:54
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    Hopefully anyone reading realizes it would be absolutely insane to do this.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 7 at 15:13
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    @Fattie Of course, that's why I pointed out you're not supposed to do it. Everyone knows you follow the rules in North Korea
    – Crazydre
    Commented May 7 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


Your guide will report you missing (after desperately trying to find you, since the guide themselves will be in deep trouble).

The authorities will hunt you down and arrest you.

What happens then is anyone's guess. If you are extremely lucky, they just kick you out. You could also spend many long years in jail, or they just kill you (claiming an accident or a unspecified medial condition).

I would not recommend it.

  • 1
    5* for suspense, 1* for amenities, overall no recommendation
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented May 6 at 17:09
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    And if anyone thinks this is over the top as a warning, see what can happen when you steal a poster and think again. Though it might less problematic if you managed to convince them you messed up getting back on, rather than going off on a lark into the countryside (to spy, obviously). Commented May 6 at 22:45
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica You can't convince anyone who is paranoid! So be prepared for the worst. I hope you get your practice in as being in a vegetative state. Commented May 7 at 14:25
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    @stackoverblown "being in a vegetative state" ??? Can you be less clear? Commented May 7 at 15:02
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica and I thought that Singapore takes vandalism extremely seriously...
    – Trang Oul
    Commented May 8 at 14:15

The blog (dated: 2008-09-20, 16 years ago) makes no mention of leaving the sleeping car at any of the stations.

One image, taken in Station Hamchun, is however taken from the platform. (On my browser only the left ⅓ part of the images are shown, so I didn't see this at first)

Most of the photos look as if they were taken from the window (the angle of the photos of the other train cars are at the window level).

Local people, who saw us at stations, were at the 1st moment quite surprised, but then usually didn't care.

When somewhere in the countryside people, who were walking or working on the fields next to the railway, saw us looking out of the passing train, unbelieving amazement was their reaction and often the[y] told other people standing next to them, that there is something sensational to see and pointed to us…

The same would happen if you walked into a station or rural town, so you wouldn't get far without being noticed.

That one of those who will notice you will probably be a policeman is also very likely.

See also: 2024-01-08: How to travel by train to or from North Korea


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