The North Korean passport won’t make it to the elite list of the most powerful passports in the world, but it is certainly one of the rarest and is a passport collector's pinnacle piece.
It is also one of the most mysterious passports and not easily seen by foreigners. The Daily NK was able to obtain a North Korean passport, a new version since 2000 from its informant based in China.
The most striking thing is, the North Korean passport is not as easily accessible even for its own citizens. There are three categories for the North Korean passports: diplomat, official and ordinary passports. Diplomat passports are only issued to high officials of the Foreign Ministry, the central party and other subordinate offices. Only vice ministers or those ranked higher in the bureaucracy can receive a diplomat’s passport. Trade and other economic bureaucrats, on the other hand, can avail of the official passports. Laborers and technicians who visit foreign countries are given the ordinary passports. Ordinary passports are also required to be surrendered to the Foreign Ministry after being used.
Both the diplomat and official passports have a validity period of up to five years and must be returned to the government after each travel. Even officials in North Korea don’t get to keep their passports for themselves. Returned passports are under the custody of the Foreign Ministry passport office and are only handed to the person on a per foreign travel basis.
Every North Korean traveling abroad is required to bring a passport, an international certificate of health for travelers, and an international certificate of HIV antibody control.
North Korean passports are also one of the most, if not the most, scrutinized passports by international immigration officials. It is subject to more rigid inspection since the Kim Jong-un-led state is classified as terrorist-supporting country.
Less than 30,000 North Koreans are “lucky” enough to be given passports in one year signifying that only a small fraction of the rogue state’s population can enjoy a few days of respite and freedom, away from their motherland.
One resident of Sariwon, North Hwanghae province of North Korea who goes only by the name of Mr. Choi shared that ordinary citizens like him have to save their earnings for 40 years to get passports making it practically impossible for North Koreans to travel abroad.
Mr. Choi got his passport to visit relatives in China. Processing of passports normally takes anywhere from three to six months in North Korea.