Health Insurance For Expats In North Korea

The Best Health Insurance For Expatriates Living In North Korea

Posted by Greg Jones on January 24, 2020

If you've searched online for private health insurance that covers expats in North Korea then you are most likely for looking for established UK based health insurance providers that can cover your medical expenses in North Korea.

Living as an expatriate in North Korea you want to avoid any nasty unexpected medical costs. In some countries these can amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds for very serious medical conditions.

Our advice when looking for private medical insurance that covers expatriates living in North Korea is to speak to a insurance broker. Health insurance is very complicated and if you want complete certainty that North Korea is covered you should consult with a medical insurance broker who can explain which providers will cover medical expenses for expatriates in North Korea and which will exclude it.

There are many advantages to using a broker but the biggest by far is that you're using their expertise at no cost. They are paid by the insurer (Aviva or Bupa etc) rather than by you so it costs you no extra to use their services.

  • Do you live in many different postcodes? Some will give you a cheaper premium than offers. A broker will be able to advise whats best.
  • Do you have a hobby that may invalidate your insurance policy? A broker will know this vital information.
  • If you are a couple and one of you has claimed on your policy this year would it be cheaper to separate you both onto two different policies?
  • You've lean't you're at risk of developing a certain condition and want to know which policy provider offers the largest amount of cover for it. A broker will know this instantly saving you huge amounts of time and effort.

You can call around every medical insurance provider on the market and ask if they provider cover for expats in North Korea, however this will be a very time consuming process. Each insurer will ask for your medical history because its not normally a simple yes or not if a medical condition is covered or not.

Its much quicker to speak to one medical insurance broker which will know which providers on the market offer cover for expats in North Korea and under what conditions they do or don't cover it.

North Korea Information

Tourism in North Korea is tightly controlled by the North Korean government. All tourism is organized by one of several state-owned tourism bureaus, including Korea International Travel Company (KITC), Korean International Sports Travel Company (KISTC), Korean International Taekwondo Tourism Company (KITTC) and Korean International Youth Travel Company (KIYTC). The majority of tourists are Chinese nationals: one 2019 estimate indicated that up to 120,000 Chinese tourists had visited North Korea in the previous year, compared to fewer than 5,000 from Western countries.

In response to the threats posed by COVID-19, North Korea closed its borders to foreign tourists on 22 January 2020. As of 8 April 2021, tourism has not been allowed to resume and the economic losses are estimated to be at least $175 million.

Interactions between foreign tourists and local people have historically been tightly controlled. As of January 2013[update], foreigners can buy SIM cards at Pyongyang airport, providing access to international calling.

The Swedish diplomatic mission to North Korea emphasises that contempt for the North Korean nation, its leaders and its symbols such as its national flag, portraits of their leaders, propaganda posters, etc. are regarded by North Korean authorities as very offensive. The tolerance level for disruptive behaviour is minimal and this can lead to imprisonment.

Since 1 September 2017, the United States Department of State has prohibited the use of U.S. passports (except those with a special validation) for travel to North Korea, arguing that U.S. citizens have been subject to arrest and long-term detention for actions that would not otherwise be a cause for arrest in the United States or other countries. The U.S. Department of State also states that it has received reports of North Korean authorities detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country. North Korea has detained U.S. citizens who were part of organised tours.

Guided tours for tourists are mandatory. Since December 2013[update], North Korea has been open to tourists during the winter. The Masikryong Ski Resort outside Wonsan City in Kangwon Province opened in early 2014. While tourists have historically been restricted to Pyongyang, some tours have recently been able to expand to other parts of the country such as Rajin (and the market there) and Chongjin.

For Westerners, there are a small number of private tour operators that help provide access to North Korea. These include Koryo Tours (known for its North Korean-related films such as Comrade Kim Goes Flying and strong history in the region); Uri Tours (known for its role in Dennis Rodman's and Eric Schmidt's trips to North Korea); Lupine Travel (a UK-based budget travel agency known for its DPRK Amateur Golf Open); Rocky Road Travel (a Berlin based company); Juche Travel Services (a UK-based company); and KTG (known for their small sized groups and affordable tours). FarRail Tours also takes tours to see operating steam railways and the Pyongyang Metro.

In 2016, an American college student, Otto Warmbier, was arrested and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for allegedly removing a propaganda poster from a wall in his Pyongyang hotel. At the time of his arrest, Warmbier was traveling with China-based tour operator Young Pioneer Tours (YPT) on a five-day tour of North Korea. He was later released and returned to the U.S. in a coma, which led to his death on 19 June 2017. As a result, YPT announced it would no longer take U.S. citizens to North Korea as the risk was "too high". Other North Korea tour companies announced they would also review their positions on accepting U.S citizens. In July 2017, the U.S. government announced that U.S. citizens would no longer be permitted to visit North Korea as tourists. The travel ban took effect on September 1, 2017 and is also set to expire on Aug 31, 2022 “unless extended or revoked by the Secretary of State".

In 2002, the area around Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain close to the South Korea border, was designated as a special tourist destination: Mount Kumgang Tourist Region. Tours run by private companies brought thousands of South Koreans to Mount Kŭmgang every year before the suspension of tours in late 2008 due to the shooting of a South Korean tourist. When tours had not resumed by May 2010, North Korea unilaterally announced that it would seize South Korean real estate assets in the region.

In July 2005, the South Korean company Hyundai Group came to an agreement with the North Korean government to open up more areas to tourism, including Baekdu Mountain and Kaesong. Kaesong was opened to daily tours for South Korean and foreign tourists in December 2007; North Korea charged US $180 for a one-day trip. The city received several hundred tourists each week, mostly South Koreans.[30]