The US Is Banning Tourism To North Korea

Filed Under: Travel

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US will ban tourism to North Korea as of next month. This is according to Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, which are two of the biggest tour operators that bring tourists to North Korea. They were apparently told this by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which is responsible for US diplomatic affairs in North Korea. Per the story:

Officers at both companies said the Swedish Embassy told them the U.S. would make the announcement on Thursday next week, with the ban to take effect 30 days later, in late August. Violating the ban would lead to the U.S. government invalidating the traveler’s passport, Young Pioneer said it was told.

All of this comes 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 U.S. government’s hostile policy toward it, in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”

Obviously what happened to Otto is incredibly tragic. Personally I wouldn’t ever go to North Korea. However, is the risk a basis on which to ban US tourism there? I can see both sides. On one hand I’m all for letting people do what they’d like at their own risk, though on the other hand it quickly becomes the US’ problem when an American goes to a country like North Korea, gets in trouble, and then looks to the US for help.

What do you make of the US banning tourism to North Korea?

  1. It’s not like travel was actually *encouraged* before, so I don’t think this will do much. Stupid people who don’t learn from history will still be trapped there, and their families will still hit up the State Department for action.

  2. “Personally I wouldn’t ever go to North Korea.” So no Air Koryo business class review? I’m disappointed 😉

  3. @lucky – I agree, let people do what they want. But the US Govt should do all it can to discourage such behavior, and a travel ban seems the best way to do that. People can and probably will still try to visit but at least our govt won’t condone it. Maybe now we can get Rodman to stay home too…

  4. the less americans on my holiday the better! wonderful news. since the USA loves all sorts of travel bans, maybe they can expand this to only countries where trump likes the leader. Would make holidaying for the rest of us much more delightful

  5. “Stupid people who don’t learn from history will still be trapped there, and their families will still hit up the State Department for action.”

    Says it all. Nothing further to add to that.

  6. I vehemently opposed the travel ban to Cuba, but I think this is different. Not only are Americans being harmed when they visit, but they are being used as propaganda and as bargaining chips. So it is in the interests of our own national security to stop Americans from going there.

    That said, I doubt the travel ban will really stop people who are determined to go there.

  7. What exactly does this “travel ban” mean. It’s not like there used to be flights from the US to N. Korea.

  8. @Peetyrd, it means it will be illegal for Americans to go there. Theoretically Americans who visit NK could be prosecuted (or have their passport taken away) when they return to America.

  9. It’s honestly a bit rich that the US government is citing Otto Warmberier as the reason for a travel ban, given that an unarmed Australian citizen was gunned down by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis just this week.

  10. @Drav, you sound quite bigoted, grouping a subset of people and negatively classifying them based simply upon their nationality. Pretty sad to see.

  11. It was so annoying hearing about that white privileged idiot that died while breaking North Korean laws, so I’m happy that this ban is being enacted so that stupid naive rich kids don’t keep doing stupid stuff while financially supporting a dictatorship.

  12. Good news! At least american is trying to keep their stupids in their own soil, as not to embarass their nation further being born. In other words, if some stupid american wants to travel, do it somewhere it won’t embarass the people that are trying to make america great again….

  13. @Lucky, let’s be clear – there is no proof that Otto did anything that he “confessed” to.

    This is a result of sloppy journalism that is just repeated over and over, and it would be great if you could stop repeating it as well. There are only two pieces that support this allegation: a) Otto’s forced confession where he also admitted to collaborating with the CIA, the Z Society, and his church to steal this sign (wtf?) and b) a grainy video released 20+ days after his arrest showing an unidentifiable person taking a sign off the wall.

    Take a look at the statement by Otto’s roommate during the trip:

  14. @Tyler I see many of our fellow Americans do that ALLLLLLLL the time, to every country on earth. And complain about every country they are in just for not being like the United States.

    I can spot my fellow Americans most of the time not by the accents, not by the way they dress, but they are the ones whining, bitching, and moaning about every little thing being different than back home. Indeed, I ran into an American traveler on my recent vacation whom I mistaken for Canadian or European because he was comfortable in the surroundings and even adopted local customs and mannerisms. For that matter I get mistaken for European or Canadian myself just from being totally at ease in foreign countries.

    Sorry you don’t like hearing that but it’s what I’ve observed.

  15. It would be a different case if DPRK did not allow US passport holders to enter their country. As an American I want to have the choice to travel there if I choose to do so. Banning Americans from travelling there doesn’t make much sense to me (for the record I have been to DPRK before using my US passport.) I used Koryo tours and recommend them highly as I was fully informed on what was allowed and not allowed; followed all the rules and am ok.
    Anyways, it’s a shame the US has to make this into law.

  16. I don’t think I’d be wanting to go to North Korea much myself, and the regime there is awful, but it never ceases to amaze me how the “land of the free” doesn’t let people do what they want, no matter how mad it might be. It always used to amaze me that the immigration forms for the US asked you to declare if you were or had been a communist (they don’t now) – you can believe whatever you want so long as it isn’t this, or that, or the next thing….

  17. I mostly enjoyed the Four Seasons Pyongyang, but there were some glaring problems. The papaya-lychee juice served at breakfast wasn’t freshly squeezed. The yolks in my son’s caviar eggs benedict were set and not runny. And there was only one television channel.

  18. How about instituting a very clear policy that the US government will never under any circumstances intervene or make any efforts on behalf of any citizens capture in North Korea? To be most effective, both US travelers and the DPRK government would have to be alerted and the US government would have to stick to the policy without exception.

    The current practice of allowing travel and then having an international diplomatic incident when the DPRK regime takes a prisoner is clearly not tenable.

  19. I’m hoping this isn’t a sign that the administration is planning on attacking North Korea soon. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but this actually concerns me.

  20. “It’s honestly a bit rich that the US government is citing Otto Warmberier as the reason for a travel ban, given that an unarmed Australian citizen was gunned down by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis just this week.”

    Could someone let me know what an Australian citizen being gunned down by a police officer* in Minneapolis has to do with a US travel ban for N. Korea?

    *Which is, of course, utterly indefensible and horrifying

  21. I disagree with the ban. The government should not be restricting the freedom of travel. Given The government should state if you go to North Korea, you are on your own if you have any issues there.

  22. America the land of the free. Free to go anywhere the government allows you to. Do any other countries ban their people from travelling. The UK issues travel warnings but has never banned travel. I went to N Korea last year, it’s an amazing place. I didn’t steal anything so everything was fine.

  23. I’m not sure the government can legally ban travel. Even the Cuba ban is really a ban on spending money in the country. Might be a technicality but important to distinguish.

  24. @James Q
    If you insist that Otto’s confession was forced, what make you certain that the statement from his roommate is not a forced or made-up one?

    That person known Otto some-beer only for a few days but he can testify about Otto’s personality? Lol!!!

  25. As someone who lives in Korea, I love how Trump is agitating Fat Kim the Third. If you can’t tell that’s sarcasm. All of his bumblings are affecting my safety.

    This isn’t due to safety, it’s making a statement.

  26. Good. The US is probably tired of rescuing stupid americans that end up in trouble in North Korea, suitable so they should ban all travel there. 100% support

  27. I think my greatest issue with all of this is the threat to “cancel my passport.” I”m not a lawyer, but something about that just doesn’t sound right to me. I guess I thought my citizenship was a right, not a privilege.

  28. This is unfortunate. Recently travelled there (unlike the vast majority of the commenters), if you don’t want to go, great don’t go. However, taking away my freedom to travel where I wish to doesn’t ” make America Great again”. Take this Jingoistic bs, and stick it. I’m tired being told what I can’t do, or shouldn’t do.

  29. @Dumammy
    You sound like a teenager being told by the parents, “don’t do drugs!”


  30. North Koreans are not free to routinely leave their country. Western tourists are often the only interaction they have with westerners. Is the US not following their example by now banning Americans from traveling? Which country will be next? Maybe Russia for so called interfering in elections. I am a US citizen but I do not seek help from the US govt when abroad. I understand the rules abroad and follow them and interact with locals as much as possible. And yes, I’ve been to North Korea and thoroughly enjoyed it. To the best of my knowledge no American has been arrested there without cause. Otherwise those of us on the tour might still be there. There were four of us on the tour.

  31. Tourism in North Korea is essentially supporting a tyrannical government that tortures, enslaves, and starves its people, don’t do it.

  32. I get the freedom of travel arguments and for anywhere else I’d agree with that argument, but this is a country run by an insane person that’s likely to arrest people because they’re from America to get a bargaining chip and cause an international incident that could lead toward nuclear war.

    They did it with Warmbier, they’ll do it again. The government shouldn’t have to deal with that added layer of complexity when trying to deal with something that really matters: a country that claims they want to nuke America (complete with propaganda videos showing it happen!) actively testing delivery systems for said nukes.

  33. @Pert: These were exactly my first thoughts. So is a preemptive strike against North Korea imminent?

    I honestly don’t know. I think it wouldn’t make too much sense, since even a conventional counter attack by North Korea is likely to kill 1m+ people in South Korea within a matter of hours. And we are talking artillery, not something that can be intercepted. But then, have the US ever considered collateral damages?

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