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Americans Banned from North Korea
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North Korea

Summary: With there being a higher likelihood of foreigners being imprisoned in North Korea, the U.S. government is preventing Americans from traveling to the country.

Everyone knows that traveling to North Korea comes with risks but those risks appear to be increasing. After the death of a U.S. student who had traveled to the communist country last year on a tour and was detained, the U.S. government is preventing any more Americans from being subjected to a similar fate.


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson authorized a “Geographical Travel Restriction” on Americans, forbidding them from entering North Korea. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert explained, “Once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.” The reason for this move is from “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement.”

Last year Otto Warmbier, 22, traveled to North Korea as a tourist in January 2016. He apparently took down a propaganda sign from his hotel which resulted in a sentence of 15 years hard labor. North Korea released him on June 13, just over a year into his sentence. However, Warmbier was in a coma and died on June 19. North Korea claims his illness was “a mystery” but the result of botulism and a sleeping pill, denying accusations of torture and abuse being the reason. No evidence of botulism was found by U.S. doctors but North Korea claims he had been in a vegetative state for roughly 16 months so it could have been the possible source of his condition.

The U.S. has strongly advised against traveling to North Korea for years. Under North Korean imprisonment remain three more Americans, a Canadian pastor, and three South Koreans, as well as several Japanese nationals. Many people that travel to the country are arrested for doing missionary work. It is unknown how many Americans currently live in North Korea.

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North Korea will be the only country that Americans are banned from traveling to. Those that wish to travel “for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes” can apply for special passports. Currently, around 4,000 to 5,000 Westerners visit North Korea each year with a several hundred being from the U.S. North Korea allows foreign tourists but strictly limits their travel within the country.

U.S. Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina introduced a bill will Rep. Adam Schiff to ban Americans from traveling to the country. The fact that at least 17 U.S. citizens have been detained in the past ten years motivated their reason for creating the bill.

Banning Americans from traveling to the U.S. will prevent them from being used as hostages in negotiations. Many speculate that North Korea targets Americans so that they can be kept as bargaining chips. With North Korea’s nuclear missiles tests, creating any reason to further increase tension with the U.S. is something worth avoiding.

Do you think travel to North Korea should have been banned a long time ago? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about North Korea, read these articles:



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