Lest you think North Korea's plans to compete on a joint Olympic team with South Korea represent a softening, the State Department's harsh words will jolt you back to reality. Inverse reports that a new system of travel advisories launched Jan. 10, and Fox News noted the Level 4—the most extreme available—travel advisory attached to North Korea curtly recommends Americans avoid travel to the country "due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of US nationals." A US passport won't get you there these days anyway, but a special validation from the department is possible in extreme cases. Should you be the recipient of one, the State Department recommends you plan your funeral. Seriously. Among its recommendations:
- "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 (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc."
The advisory additionally reminds travelers that the US has no diplomatic or consular presence in the country, and while Sweden can intervene on the behalf of Americans, the feds accuse North Korea of having slowed or barred visits between Swedish officials and detained US citizens in the past. As for who might qualify for special validation, Town Hall
indicates journalists and those with "compelling humanitarian considerations," like the Red Cross. Inverse notes 10 other countries currently have Level 4 status, meaning will-planning should be in order before heading there, too. The countries are: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (North Korea's military might is beyond the West's imagination
, says a former general.)