Is it possible for a UK citizen seek asylum in Democratic People's Republic of Korea ? They seem to have an embassy in London but I have not managed to find their web-site and any relevant information about the process.

  • 1
    Related: expatriates.stackexchange.com/q/12656
    – gaazkam
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:55
  • 12
    I don't want to sound offensive. Though, you seem to be the only person looking for asylum IN North Korea. :p
    – bash0r
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 21:30
  • My risk team(that includes people from Hungary and Romania) thinks it is a good idea.
    – user14429
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 17:34

4 Answers 4


Generally speaking you can always seek asylum, the question is what happens to you afterwards. For what it's worth, North Korea is not a party to the main UN Convention about refugees. So it's not clear whether it recognises the concept at all and it is under no obligation to provide protection to anybody. And even under a generous interpretation of the convention, mounting a credible claim as a British citizen sounds like a challenge anyway.

Furthermore, you cannot usually effectively seek asylum in embassies, that's just not the way it works. What the relevant international law is about are displaced people who present themselves to an international border or cross it irregularly, their rights and what can be done after that. You will find a handful of recorded cases of people finding refuge in an embassy and perhaps a few hundreds or thousands of people being granted some sort of visa to travel to another country on the same basis but those are fringe cases and no country is under any obligation to provide protection to people through their embassy.

In fact, even countries that have a generous attitude towards applications lodged on their territory, participate in UNHCR relocation programmes, etc. do not routinely entertain applications lodged in embassies (and I am talking here about legitimate applications from genuine refugees).

  • 9
    +1, I am glad that a really useful, informative answer was possible here, discounting all the "who would want to go to NK" glee. It is obvious to me that the OP is not actually trying to get asylum there, but is interested in the actual workings of the "asylum" concept. Which has been pretty deftly explained here. For example, I was not intuitively aware that you usually cannot get asylum in embassies, but in hindsight it is obvious - or else, any and all asylums close to problematic countries would regularly be flooded by hordes of refugees.
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 14:02
  • 1
    "even countries that have a generous attitude towards applications lodged on their territory, [...] do not routinely entertain applications lodged in embassies" As a somewhat recent, publicly reported example of this, look at the problems Edward Snowden had in seeking asylum in different countries, where many basically outright responded "get to our territory and we'll look at it".
    – user
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 10:15
  • 2
    "[M]ounting a credible claim as a British citizen sounds like a challenge anyway." Not necessarily. It would be hard for a British person to claim asylum in, say, the US or France because those countries believe the UK to be a reasonable place whose government represses its people. But North Korea seems not to think that the UK is a reasonable place; I don't know if they think we're being oppressed. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 12:07
  • @DavidRicherby Sure you meant that the way you said it? I mean, it could be you have an interesting view on US-UK relations.... "the US or France because those countries believe the UK to be a reasonable place whose government represses its people" Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 13:11
  • @Darkwing *laughs* Er, yeah, I meant "doesn't repress", though it's more fun to pretend that I meant "represses in a way that the US agrees with." Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 13:21

Yes, they have accepted some. Wikipedia lists people from South Korea and the USA, including deserters from the Korean War (there is a British soldier included), for example.

Of course, that does not mean that they would accept anybody approaching them.

  • 7
    They've accepted some from Japan as well :-)
    – user11249
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 22:06
  • 2
    That is all history - what about the present? There are no links on that wikipedia page that would refer to the current procedures and contacts..
    – user14429
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 22:15
  • 105
    @DraifKroneg There is not a lot a data to speculate with, since -surprisingly- it seems that there has been few request (it must be due to the weather).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 23:42
  • I'm not sure the Korean War page makes any case for North Korea accepting asylum-seekers. The 22 men were POWs and deserters who refused to return to their home countries during the prisoner repatriation programmes at the end of the Korean War (more than 20,000 people refused to be repatriated in the opposite direction). Those programmes ended in December 1953 and, by the end of February 1954, all 22 of them had been moved to China. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:14
  • Actually, the See also section is probably the most relevant: it lists six American soldiers who defected to North Korea between 1962 and 1983. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:21

You can read about the last one who tried:


An American guy went there as a tourist, destroyed his passport and asked for asylum. His claim was deemed (rightly) bogus by North Korea and he was sent to jail with a 8 years sentence until US succeeded to negotiate his return.

This seems to be the most likely fate for anyone attempting this, but if you have a valid claim, who knows?

Other countries would definitely be a better choice tho; North Korea is not the only option if you seek refuge from UK.

  • 24
    Looks like Miller's asylum request actually was bogus; the Wikipedia page says that he admitted to using it as an excuse to explore the country and interview people, which North Korea deemed to be espionage. However objectionable their policies prohibiting reporting, they were essentially correct that he was using asylum as a thinly veiled excuse to do something that they considered to illegal.
    – Nat
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:11
  • @Nat Yes. I really want to stress that should such kind of decision be taken lightly, the punishment will be very though. (8 years in DPRK prisons ...)
    – Antzi
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 14:30
  • 2
    I'm honestly more surprised that a foreign citizen convicted of espionage in North Korea would be sentenced only to eight years in prison. (Whether what he did should constitute espionage is a completely different question.)
    – user
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 10:18
  • As a counter-example, the classic case of James Joseph Dresnok is a good example of a US citizen who defected during the war and, seeemingly, quite genuinely expressed affinity for the communist regime and allegiance to the DPRK. He actually lived a long and qute good life there and gained a fair amount of domestic fame - the regime actually liked him since he represented a powerful propaganda tool (here being a real US citizen that traded everything to live in the "superior" DPRK).
    – J...
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 16:04

North Korea is a dictatorship. I don't think any evidence or references are needed to support this well known fact. A dictator can have committees (Soviets) to assist with minor decisions such as asylum seekers or even major policy decisions on immigration. But all such policies and decisions are ultimately made by the dictator. In the case of North Korea, none of their policies are bound or shaped by international treaties or standards.

Indeed, the dictator is not even bound by his own precedent in previous decisions. I believe that any N. Korean embassy would be highly suspicious of any would be asylum seekers and just assume they are espionage agents. Instead of risking his/her career or 'more', the ambassador would tend to just not deal with this risk and reject the asylum application.

  • 9
    This answer contains a lot of assumptions (and not just in the first sentence) about the asylum practices of North Korea, but no actual examples or sources for how they really handle asylum requests in practice. Extrapolating from the fact that North Korea is a dictatorship is not a reliable way to get to the truth when actual sources exist.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:02
  • 8
    I think you're misunderstanding his point. His point is that, given that NK is a dictatorship, whatever policies and laws they have in place are subject to being immaterial in a way that they would not be in other countries. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 0:25

You must log in to answer this question.