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Effective September 1, 2017, U.S. passports are not valid for travel to, in, or through North Korea, unless they are specially validated by the Department of State. See here for how to apply special passport to travel to North Korea.
1. Let's say I wanted to go to North Korea (forget the US travel embargo for a moment), what would I have to do to gain access to the country? Is there a Visa or invitation requirement? Is it a travel visa or what, and how long is it valid for?
2. Okay, so now I'm inside NK as a tourist, and I'm seeing all the "fun / happy" sights. Then, one night, I'm bored and I decide to go exploring and get into trouble with the authorities. Nobody in the group I was with knows what happened to me. Does anyone get notified? Who?
3. I get taken into custody and, after a several of weeks of silence, am charged with some heinous (but bogus) charge...like espionage. No one in NK would give a hoot if another foreigner is charged with some crime, so how is this charge communicated to the outside world? Does the US State Department get notified? Or, does some other diplomatic channel get used? If so what / how? What is the actual mechanism of communication? Does somebody call someone, or does some official document get transmitted? Again, what and to whom?
4. Now I've been in custody for a while (weeks / months) and the NK government decides to send me to "court" to be tried for my crimes. Clearly the NK government wants these things to be a spectacle, so how does the outside world get notified of my pending trial...or do they? Again, what is the official mechanism which communicates all these events to the outside world?
5. After being incarcerated (and presumably interrogated, tortured and treated harshly) I fall ill...in a coma even. The NK government decides to release me after some kind of political pressure (probably never learn how this part happens), but I'm not ambulatory. In other words, I need to leave via medivac. How does this action take place?
While Canada lacks an embassy in North Korea, Sweden has maintained one in Pyongyang since 1975. Sweden acts as the "protective power" for Canada and other countries, meaning it can provide different services including consular responsibility for Canadian citizens.
Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that she was glad Sweden could assist with the effort to free Lim.