North Korean customs checks now include searches of travellers’ Internet browser histories and cookies, in addition to other computer and electronic paraphernalia, according to a new travel warning from the US State Department.

North Korea passport control
North Korea passport control

The relevant portion of travel warning reads, “DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which you know as North Korea] customs officials will inspect USB drives, CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or other electronic and multimedia devices brought into the country. Internet browsing histories and cookies on travelers’ computers and other electronic devices are subject to search for banned content, including pornography or material critical of the DPRK government. Possession of any media, either printed or electronic, criticizing the DPRK government is a criminal act. Bringing pornography into the country is also a criminal act.”

And, assuming you and your computing device make it into North Korea, you’ll find that Internet access is restricted and slow. So probably best to leave your notebook tech devices at home and just pack a notebook, pen, and digital camera.

But if you're adamant about visiting North Korea and lugging your laptop, tablet, or mobile device with you, here are a few tips:

  • Clear your browser’s cache before going via these instructions.
  • Set your browser to not remember your history in the first place (usually called private or incognito mode) via these instructions.
  • Use Tor Browser, which protects users against network surveillance and deletes all cookies and your history once you close it. Of course, its mere presence on your computer may make customs officials suspicious.

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