It's not clear why any American citizen would want to visit North Korea. But, for those that do, the U.S. Department of State has some morbid tips on how to prepare.
The State Department issued a travel advisory on Wednesday that placed North Korea at "Level 4: Do not travel," and warned U.S. citizens that they can only use a U.S. passport to enter North Korea with a special State Department validation, which is only granted in "very limited circumstances."
Preparing for a trip to North Korea
If a person gets over all the bureaucratic hurdles necessary to obtain permission to travel to North Korea, here's what the State Department recommends they do before leaving:
- Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
- Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets, funeral wishes, etc.
The website also recommended reviewing some materials related to high-risk travel and emergency situations. It also warned that the U.S. cannot provided emergency services to citizens in North Korea, and that Sweden (the protecting power for the U.S. in North Korea) is often hindered by the North Korean government in attempts to access detained U.S. citizens.
Basically, if you plan to travel to North Korea, the State Department also advises that you plan for the higher-than-normal possibility that you will die in North Korea.
A complicated relationship
The travel advisory comes as North Korea's relationship with the world is changing some with the approach of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. North Korea and South Korea have used the upcoming games as an opportunity for diplomatic talks and a lessening of tensions, with North Korean athletes and a delegation expected to participate.
Still, there's no indication that any good will shown during the Winter Olympics will translate into a better relationship between the United States and North Korea, and the threat of war still weighs heavily on the minds of citizens as illustrated by the Hawaii missile false alarm and ongoing military exercises to prepare for the last resort of full-scale conflict with North Korea.