US brings travel ban for its citizens traveling to North Korea

Published on : Saturday, September 2, 2017

North KoreaOver heightened tensions over North Korean missile launches, a US ban on its citizens travelling to North Korea has finally come into effect. This ban was announced after US student Otto Warmbier died after being released from prison in North Korea.

Any US citizen breaking the rules might face criminal penalties and have their passports revoked. However, the State Department would only grant permission to US citizens to go to North Korea “under very limited circumstances” like journalism or humanitarian work.

Tour operators have suggested that up to 1,000 Americans visit North Korea every year, making up about a fifth of Western tourists. Also, a huge majority of visitors to North Korea are Chinese. On Thursday, tour operators flew out their last American tourists from Pyongyang.

While on holiday, Otto Warmbier was arrested and jailed in 2016 after Pyongyang accused him of attempting to take a propaganda sign from a hotel. He was released to his family in the US in June, but he was in coma and died shortly afterwards without regaining consciousness. The cause of his death remains unknown.

The State Department said at least 16 citizens had been detained in North Korea in the past decade. Three are known to be in detention. Most of those detained have been US missionaries, journalists and professors. In the past, the US accused North Korea of detaining its citizens and using them as pawns in negotiations over its nuclear weapons programme.

The State Department said in its latest statement that anyone visiting North Korea “should have no expectation of privacy”, with all electronic devices subject to searches and authorities able to monitor mobile phone calls. The new rules also affect US citizens living and working in North Korea, such as aid workers and teachers.


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