I'm an American-born (South) Korean, and I have a week to sign up for a surfing expedition in North Korea. I've read several pages of Google results about Americans traveling to North Korea, the official travel advisory, blogs, etc. But I can't find anything about an American born to South Korean parents—as you can imagine, adding the keyword "South" only brings up South Korea in political contexts, or information for South Korean nationals, e.g. How possible is it for a South Korean to visit North Korea?

Based on the information I've read for (non-Asian) Americans, I'm pretty comfortable going on this trip. But I'm uncertain what additional trouble I might get in for being South Korean by heritage. For example, I'm not too worried about being detained for a month, even longer, but official and non-official sources mention that "death" as a possible sentence, which uh, I guess is kind of worrisome, as adventurous as I am.

From recent times, Kenneth Bae was a South Korean who had emigrated to America and was visiting North Korea when he was detained then sentenced to 15 years of hard labor; ultimately, he was released in a few months. However, Bae was clearly violating North Korean laws with his religious involvement.

Can anyone point to any article from the perspective of a South Korean American or any information related to such? Or, does anyone have pertinent deductions I might not have come across that might persuade or dissuade me from going? (I promise not to hold anyone responsible for detainment or death :-)

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    "I'm comfortable with being detained for a month, even a few months, but espionage charges can result in death." - Are you serious? Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:58
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    @chromozonex Of course he is...imagine the movie rights value alone..
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 21:46
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    I mean, they threaten this every year, but given they've announced possible war today (source), I'd keep an eye on the news...
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 7:31
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    @AndrewCheong How'd it go? Did you make the trip? Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 8:51
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    Please, please do not go to North Korea on account of what I'm saying here, though. It's like trusting your life to a procedure that's been tested on a sample size of 4. Just a month or two after my trip, Otto Warmbier, a student at UVA was arrested (granted, he tried to steal a poster as a souvenir, and I have reasons to believe this part was actually true, though of course not the forced confessions), was likely tortured, and died of suspect causes. I myself was motivated by the risk / selfish disregard for my own life. It's most definitely not safe. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 7:23

2 Answers 2


I went to North Korea last September. You'll be perfectly safe travelling there as a Korean American. For all the failings of the North Korean government, they're not in the habit of arbitrarily detaining foreign tourists. Almost all the foreign tourists detained by the North Korean government in recent years have been detained for trying to bring bibles into North Korea. Furthermore, your tour company should give you a full briefing and would not let you on the tour if they thought you were likely to be detained.

If in doubt, contact Koryo Tours . They organized my tour (as well as one of the Vice Magazine tours and one of the Dennis Rodman tours) and are very knowledgeable about travel to the DPRK.

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    I contacted Koryo Tours before my trip as you suggested. They said it'd be no problem. Indeed, I found that fears of visiting DPRK are completely exaggerated. They are in fact afraid to touch Americans because the media would be all over it. There was that guy who ripped up his visa or passport and got detained, for example. The full story is he refused to leave his hotel room (in a hotel I stayed at, incidentally), and for weeks the hotel staff brought him food anyway, until the DPRK had no choice but to detain him. Then he finally wanted to go home, so the head of the CIA had to get him. Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 15:10

US Department of State has a level 4 travel advisory. Level 4 is "do not travel," and was updated December 19,2018.


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    This answer would be much improved by providing the actual information. There is much more to it than simply "do not travel". But the content of links can change, so simply providing a link is not a good way to answer a question. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 16:50
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    In general the travel warnings issued by the governments are extremely exaggerated.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:05

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