A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the US was planning on banning tourism to North Korea. This came after Otto Warmbier died a few weeks ago, after having been held in captivity in North Korea for several months. He returned to the US in a coma, and died just days later. He had visited North Korea over New Years, and was accused of trying to steal a North Korean banner from the hotel he was staying at.
North Korea accused him of committing a “hostile act” on behalf of a church, a secretive university organization, and the CIA. Within a couple of weeks he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, as he “confessed to the serious offense against the DPRK he had committed, pursuant to the US government’s hostile policy toward it, in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”
At the time we received unofficial word that the US would be banning Americans from visiting North Korea. It looks like that’s now official. Per a filing yesterday, United States passports are invalid for travel to North Korea as of September 1, 2017. This restriction is due to the “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention.” Here’s what the filing says about this new restriction:
SUMMARY: The Department of State is declaring all U.S. passports invalid for travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) unless the travel meets certain criteria.
DATES: The travel restriction is in effect on September 1, 2017.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Department of State has determined that the serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention represents imminent danger to the physical safety of United States nationals traveling to and within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), within the meaning of 22 CFR 51.63(a)(3). Therefore, pursuant to the authority of 22 U.S.C. 211a and Executive Order 11295 (31 FR 10603), and in accordance with 22 CFR 51.63(a)(3), all United States passports are declared invalid for travel to, in, or through the DPRK unless specially validated for such travel, as specified at 22 CFR 51.64. The restriction on travel to the DPRK shall be effective 30 days after publication of this Notice, and shall remain in effect for one year unless extended or sooner revoked by the Secretary of State. Dated: July 21, 2017.
Well, there you have it. If you’re American and want to legally visit North Korea, you have about four weeks left to do so. As far as the exceptions go, while I can’t find an official document on this, ABC claims that exceptions include “journalists traveling to cover North Korea, American Red Cross or International Committee of the Red Cross employees on official business, other aid workers with compelling humanitarian considerations, and anyone else whose trip is otherwise in the national interest.”