On the North Korea Travel Ban…

If North Korea was on your destination list in the near future, you may want to postpone it until further notice. As of September 1st, Americans are prohibited from visiting the area. Here, our Philly Airport parking company shares a news article via Conde Nast Traveler regarding the situation:

“Americans hoping to see inside the Hermit Kingdom will need to put their plans on indefinite hold: Starting today [September 1st], the U.S. government is prohibiting its citizens from traveling to the nation.

The order was first announced by the Trump administration in July, a month after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student who traveled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours, was released and transferred to the United States after having been detained in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, accused of taking a propaganda sign from a hotel. He was returned to the United States, however, in a coma, reportedly brought on by botulism, according to North Korean officials. He died a week after arriving United States without regaining consciousness. According to the U.S. State Department, at least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past decade.

Though the ban was prompted by Warmbier’s death, tensions are also high over the totalitarian nation’s nuclear program: In July, the North Korean government announced a successful test of what it claimed to be its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a move that defied a UN ban on missile tests there. In its most recent tests this week, North Korea sent a ballistic missile over Japan.

The U.S. State Department does not track the number of its citizens who visit the country every year, but Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, told the New York Times that Americans make up approximately 20 percent of the 4,000 to 5,000 Western tourists who visit the country annually, curious to catch a glimpse of a country shut off from the rest of the world. After the ban was announced in July, CNN reported that North Korea saw an influx of American travelers, anxious to see the country before they’d be barred entry. On Thursday, more and more Americans flew out of Pyongyang before the ban took effect.

Last updated August 10, a State Department Travel Warning for U.S. citizens cautions: “North Korean authorities have imposed unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and have threatened U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with ‘wartime law of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].'”

According to the State Department, citizens holding U.S. passports are restricted to “travel into, in, or through North Korea.” Non-American tour companies that operate in North Korea, like the Beijing-based Koryo, will continue to guide trips in the country, though U.S. citizens will not get travel approval. Only under very limited circumstances—in the case of humanitarian workers and some journalists—will special visas for travel to North Korea be issued. Unless extended, the ban expires after one year.”