Facts: The North Korean (DPRK) Passport

North Korean (DPRK) Passport

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) passport is one of the rarest travel documents a collector can get. Here are some facts, stories, and pictures.

The Daily NK obtained a North Korean passport, a new version since 2000, from an informant in China. North Korean (DPRK) Passport
The informant reported that every North Korean traveling abroad must bring a passport, an international certificate of health for travelers, and an international certificate of HIV antibody control. The previous version of the North Korean passport is vinyl with red color.

Kim Tae San, a former director of Czech-N. Korean Shoe Joint-Stock Company defected North Korea said that the North Korean passport’s quality was so bad due to lack of foreign currency and technology that every time I entered another country, immigration officials checked my passport as if I possessed a fake one. And especially since North Korea is labeled a terrorist-supporting country, Kim continued, North Korean passport holders are meticulously inspected. According to Kim, health and HIV certificates are a tradition of communist countries. However, in reality, certificates are provided without actual vaccination because of the shortage of medicine.

To ordinary people in North Korea, a passport is never issued.

Even those who travel abroad for official reasons have to be verified by corresponding government and local party offices, officers’ bureau, National Security Agency, Social Safety Agency, Ministry of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and appropriate departments of the central party office for three months, and receive more than a week of Foreign Ministry’s dispatch abroad preparation education. North Korean (DPRK) Passport

North Korea’s passport is classified into three; diplomat’s passport, official passport, and ordinary passport. Diplomats’ passports are issued to high officials of the Foreign Ministry, the central party, and other subordinate offices of the KWP. Only vice ministers or higher can receive a diplomat’s passport for the rest of the bureaucrats. Trade and other economic bureaucrats traveling abroad receive official passports. Ordinary passports are single passports used by laborers and technicians who visit foreign countries. The Foreign Ministry withdraws regular passports after being used. The other two passports are expired in five years and must be returned after each travel. Returned passports are kept in the Foreign Ministry passport office and returned to the person if they revisit a foreign country.

Passports are printed in the Social Safety Agency mint, suspected of printing fake dollar bills, in Pyongyang, South Pyongan Province. Those who travel overseas must provide a ‘temporary certificate of ration suspension’ before receiving a passport. The certificate is gained from the related ration office and should be returned to the office after travel to resume the ration. So double percentage can be prevented, and all passports are withdrawn. North Korean (DPRK) Passport

Less than thirty thousand North Koreans are blessed to receive passports in one year. Therefore, every year, only a tiny fraction of the North Korean population enjoys a certain level of freedom for a few days. Another article of The Daily NK tells this story…

A Passport Worth 40 Years Of Earning

Bansi, Jilin Province of China, I was encountered by Mr. Choi, a 48-year old resident of Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province of NK. Mr. Choi had been visiting his relative in China for two months. As he showed me his passport, Choi told me that the passport was worth what he earned for about 40 years. According to Choi, ordinary residents have to save their earnings for 40 years to get a passport; in other words, it is almost impossible for North Korean people to travel abroad.

What is the procedure to obtain a passport? North Korean (DPRK) Passport
There are two required procedures; an unofficial one before submitting the document and official document submission. Because we need the permission of the security officer in charge to get out official documents passed, it is most important to have a ‘good relationship’ during the unofficial process. Even the official process requires a ‘good relationship’ with the local security office’s external affairs bureau official. A good relationship means bribery.

How much does a security officer ask for bribery?
In my case, the officer in the National Security Agency suggested two terms of the contract. One is to bring one million won (400 dollars) worth of cash or home appliances. Another one is a letter of invitation from my relatives in China. In most cases, invitations to a wedding ceremony or 60th birthday banquet are acceptable.

The security officer in charge then submits the letter of invitation to the local security office’s External Affairs Bureau (EAB). Officials in the bureau would decide whether somebody is permitted to visit China or not. The EAB official asked me for one million one (400 dollars) worth bribe during the decision process. If I don’t pay that, documents cannot be passed. So far is an unofficial procedure.

Then, the official would give me an application form, in which I have to write about my relatives in China, my current job, and my family precisely. EAB official verifies the paper through the People’s Safety Agency (NK police organization) registration office, and my company’s bosses and party secretary agree. The local security chief permits my travel. Getting permission requires a vis-à-vis meeting with the local security chief. North Korean (DPRK) Passport

Afterward, two visas, one from NK National Security Agency and the other from the Chinese embassy. Chinese embassy checks whether my relatives are currently living in China. After receiving the two visas, a passport is given.

The Visa application fee is 30 euros, 240 thousand won (100 dollars). Since the average monthly wage for a (North) Korean worker is two thousand won, we have to save our wages for 12 years without spending a penny. And even the monthly salary is often delayed. 240 thousand won is a huge amount of money. Moreover, security officers ask for some bribes. Therefore, about 40 years of earnings are spent to get a passport. North Korean (DPRK) Passport

How long does it take to issue a passport?
At least 3 months to more than 6 months. And even this is impossible without bribery. (North) Korea is the Bribery Republic of Korea. Maybe that is why national elites don’t want the regime to be changed.

– What is the difference between the border area residents’ passports and the regular passports?
Border area residents don’t need their passports to be approved by the National Security Agency. The rest of the procedures are the same. Personal bribery differs depending on the region, too. Residents of Pyongyang, South Pyongan Province, North, and South Hwanghae, and Kangwon provinces pay much more for corruption. Also, although my passport is officially valid for 3 months, in reality, I have to come back in two months. However, border area residents can stay in China for a full three months.

Is there any instruction before visiting relatives in China? North Korean (DPRK) Passport
Of course, there is at the local party committee Propaganda Bureau.

What kind of content?
China differs from us; they teach. They educate the possible visitors that even though China is more prosperous than (North) Korea, we must not be blinded by money. And, we are taught not to meet the South Koreans in China. We are instructed to boast about our country (NK) and be proud of it if we meet them. It is emphasized not to accept any of their (South Korea’s) offers. And if there is an encounter with a South Korean, we must report that fact to the National Security Agency.

North Korean (DPRK) Passport


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