North Korea Will Soon Be Off Limits to U.S. Travelers
U.S. passport holders will no longer be able to visit North Korea as tourists starting September 1, according to the State Department.
The U.S. announced the restrictions on tourism in July, citing the risk of “long-term detention,” according to a travel alert posted Wednesday. All U.S. tourists who are currently in the country will need to leave by that date.
Certain exceptions will be allowed, and journalists and humanitarian aid workers will continue to be allowed to travel to the region if they apply and are approved for a special dispensation from the U.S. government, Reuters reported.
North Korea and the U.S. have long experienced a fraught diplomatic relationship. Threats of nuclear weapons use, coupled with the recent death of a U.S. student following North Korean detainment, have only further strained relations between the two countries.
The ban comes after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old U.S. student, died after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea and detained for a year and a half. While North Korean officials denied torturing Warmbier, he returned to the U.S. in a coma and died soon after.
Three other U.S. nationals are currently detained in North Korea.
Some U.S. residents who are intimately familiar with the situation in North Korea denounced the decision, waring that it could potentially limit U.S. influence in the region and prevent important humanitarian aid missions from being carried out.
As U.S. visitors to the region will need an official dispensation from their government, this stamp of approval could cause even further suspicion among the North Koreans, one aid worker told The Washington Post.
“[T]here’s nobody in North Korea that I’ve ever met who would believe that the U.S. government would issue that permission purely for humanitarian reasons,” said Stephen Linton, an American who heads the EugeneBell Foundation, a non-governmental organization that treats people with multi drug-resistant tuberculosis in North Korea.