US Expected to Ban Travel to North Korea Next Week

The Trump administration is expected to announce a ban on citizens traveling to North Korea next week. The ban would go into effect 30 days later.

The US is to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea, according to two agencies that operate tours there.

…They were informed by the Swedish embassy, which conducts US affairs in the country.

The US has not yet confirmed the ban but there has been momentum, given the worsening ties and the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier.

Reportedly the Secretary of State “decided to implement a ‘geographical travel restriction’ for North Korea, meaning the use of US passports to enter would be illegal.”

While recent incidents would naturally give many Americans pause about visiting North Korea, I’m not sure what banning travel to the country does to alter the regime’s behavior. And this was reportedly something the administration wanted to do “even before Otto Warmbier died” so that’s arguably just pretext.

It’s estimated that 1000 Americans visit North Korea each year, double the number of a decade ago. Already citizens were strongly warned of the risks of travel to North Korea.

We’d be at least as effective supporting challenge to the regime through the subversive power of dance.

Avoiding flying on North Korea’s state airline though could be advisable in its own right. I call Pakistan International Airlines “the world’s worst airline” but that’s only because I have some threshold for global reach. PIA flies to North America. Air Koryo doesn’t but Air Koryo could make a reasonable play for truly being the world’s worst.


Air Koryo Tupolev TU-204 Approaching Beijing, copyright boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

For a communist country that is supposed to be classless, it’s ironic that Air Koryo offers two classes of service. And of course Kim Jong Un flies privatee.

Although Air Koryo entered the modern age with online booking in 2012, these issues may give you pause about even booking a $9 systemwide mistake fare.

Their new domestic terminal in Pyongyang is absolute perfection, built in harmony with modern aesthetic taste and national character.

It’s worth noting just how much freedom people have in Pyongyang. Those permitted to travel to the airport, and with enough resources to actually do so, do not have to go through a nude-o-scope.

The terminal features upscale dining and non-consumerist retail consistent with communist principles shops.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great news. Frankly, anyone stupid enough to visit such a country deserves a stay in a comfortable NK hard labor camp for a few decades.

  2. It wasn’t so bad… it’s so Orwellian that it’s fascinating. I went there last year with Koryo Tours for my birthday and had a pretty good time. The people were really very friendly and welcoming to our group – from those walking the streets and even truckloads of armed SOLDIERS we saw at the Kim’s mausoleum. The guides even had a surprise birthday cake for me. But I also knew where I was and was not going to ANYTHING untoward. It was really stupid what happened to Mr. Warmbier since those posters are available EVERYWHERE and are cheap. I saw those at museums, at the DMZ, restaurants…

  3. And not to long in the future some stupid american would be enraged due to treatment to american citizen that decided to ignore the ban and visiting north korea under pretext of humanitarian/missionary/study/ or any other stupidity. Otto some-beer wasn’t the first and definetely won’t be the last……

  4. I don’t think the ban is to alter the regime’s behavior, but rather to protect American citizens. Who knows if Otto even really took the poster. He could have just been framed. You can always enter North Korea if you’re so inclined on another country’s passport, provided you have dual citizenship.

  5. I’d ordinarily object to any kind of travel ban, and ordinarily would not give the Trump Administration the benefit of the doubt for imposing a ban, but North Korea is an execrably special case. As @Nancy said, the ban is to protect American citizens rather than to change the regime’s behavior. I can also see it justified on different foreign policy grounds, however, as North Korea seems to use such detentions at least partly as a tool to secure visits by high level current or former US officials to secure the prisoners’ release.

    As she also noted, it’s not at all clear that Warmbier even stole the poster – not that such a theft would justify his imprisonment and mistreatment anyway.

    An interesting piece by someone who’s traveled to North Korea with the same company that took Warmbier, and the dangerous and irresponsible conduct it encourages: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/21/otto-wambier-fate-north-korea-tour-company-pyongyang

  6. I made a comment on Facebook when Otto Warmbier was first released that the Dear Fuhrer’s regime could make money by selling such posters as souvenirs. Perhaps on the back, they could also transliterated into Romanized Korean and translated into English and other languages! So Jim D, were any such posters offered FOR SALE? Or just on display ‘everywhere’?

  7. B1BomberVB: I didn’t see any English translations. They were mainly just pictures (All the depictions of Americans had big noses for some reason) with some Korean characters. Many varieties, some just had glorious representations of NK national “might”, Some had US soldiers kneeing in defeat with victorious and magnanimous NK soldiers standing over them, some were quite humorous (due to the ridiculous propaganda) but were not intended to be. At times it was hard not to laugh at it all.

  8. lets face it most Americans are naïve, truly and honestly naïve. Is Trump is trying to protects these adult children or even worst adult babies from themselves? Maybe. If I were president I would not be trying to protect a bunch adult children from themselves but rather to lessen the time I and my staff have to spend on dealing with it. So a travel band reduced the headaches then so be it. If it were not for that I would so if they are stupid to want to NK, then let them it one less adult child in the US we have to take care of like a parent would have to take of a toddler.

  9. Oops, JimD! I meant to type, “they could also BE transliterated. . .translated,” referring to my idea of producing posters for sale/ export in the future.

  10. I agree with Take-A-Break that the main purpose of the ban is probably to end the responsibility/ duty of high US Govt. officials to get people out of NK!

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