Tag Archive | "travel"

Coronavirus Worsens Korea-Japan Tensions

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • Four Japanese citizens were prevented from boarding a plane destined for South Korea on March 9, the first day of South Korea’s travel ban on Japanese from entering the nation.
  • Japan, along with five other nations, banned foreigners from entering the country if they had visited certain hotspots such as
  • Daegu, Cheongdo county, and North Gyeongsang Province.
  • New measures from the Japanese government included the suspension of a 90-day visa-free program for Koreans.
  • As of March 13, a total of 123 countries and territories were restricting entry or enforcing tougher quarantine measures for people from South Korea.

Implications: The South Korean government’s responses to Tokyo’s new travel restrictions suggest that bilateral relations continue to suffer from tensions stemming from Japan’s reaction to the Korean court upholding the legitimacy of reparations claims by victims of forced labor during WWII. While 123 countries and territories have imposed varying levels of restrictions, Seoul has only imposed reciprocal travel restrictions on Japan. This unprecedented measure not only demonstrated how pathological pressures may be further damaging frayed relations but also revealed that countries in the region are still not coordinating their responses to the pandemic.

Context: Japan’s reaction to the pandemic strikes a contrast with how the U.S. government has approached travelers from Korea. While people who visited hotzones like Daegu are being quarantined, the U.S. government has not revoked its visa-free travel for Korean nationals.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Image from the U.S. State Department flickr account.

Posted in Japan, slider, South KoreaComments (1)

Scratch North Korea from your Vacation Plans

By Mark Tokola

According to news reports, the State Department will soon publish a new regulation to ban Americans from visiting North Korea for tourism.  State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on July 21, “Once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.”  It appears the special validation exception is intended to allow the small number of U.S. humanitarian workers to continue their work in North Korea.  There will be a 30-day period after the ban is officially published in the Federal Register before it comes into effect to allow time for Americans in North Korea to depart.

The State Department has made clear that the justification for the ban is “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention,” following student Otto Warmbier’s year-long detention in North Korea and his death on June 19.  Three American citizens continue to be held in North Korea.  The State Department has long cautioned against Americans travelling to North Korea because of the U.S. government’s inability to provide protective services in a country in which it has no Embassy or Consulate. But that has not dissuaded several hundred Americans from visiting North Korea every year, usually by means of European travel agencies that offer group tours.

Those who have advocated for a travel ban on North Korea have given reasons other than personal safety.  One is to deprive the North Korean government of the money it makes from tourism.  North Korea charges a great deal for the privilege of visiting their country, and that money goes into government coffers.  Advocates of a travel ban say that tourism revenue directly or indirectly supports both North Korea’s weapons programs and its pervasive system of human rights abuses.  Another reason for a ban would be to prevent North Korea from seizing hostages to gain diplomatic leverage against the U.S.  In the past, North Korea has released American prisoners only in exchange for visits by high-level, current or former U.S. government officials.

Opponents of a travel ban have argued that people-to-people contacts can help change how North Koreans see America.  Even casual contacts with North Koreans, under this theory, will help counter North Korean propaganda that all Americans should be seen as hostile war-mongers.  Some also oppose all U.S. government travel bans on the general principle that American citizens should have the freedom to travel where they choose; travel restrictions are an abridgment of civil liberties.  As a legal matter, the Supreme Court settled this question in the 1965 Zemel v Rusk decision when it upheld the State Department’s power to restrict the use of U.S. passports to travel to Cuba. A final reason to oppose a ban is that it could prove difficult to enforce.  If an American joins a travel group from outside of the United States, to what lengths would the U.S. government go to punish that individual?  How would it even monitor the travels of such individuals?

Beginning in 1968, U.S. passports included a list of countries to which the passport holder could not travel: North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, North Vietnam, and Cuba.  Those restrictions were eventually dropped and there currently are no countries which a U.S. passport holder is prohibited from visiting.  You will ask, “What about Cuba?”  In fact, the current U.S. bar on tourists visiting Cuba is not a State Department ban on using a U.S. passport to visit Cuba; it was a U.S. Treasury Department ban on making any payment to the Cuban government, which had the effect of making travel to Cuba virtually impossible for tourist purposes.  The Obama Administration eased those financial restrictions, but the Trump Administration is restoring some of them.  For more on travel to Cuba, see the Treasury Department’s FAQs from June 16, 2017.

In addition to the State Department’s ban on tourism for the purpose of protecting American citizens from the dangers of travel to North Korea, watch for the U.S. Treasury to impose its own restrictions on American payments to visit North Korea as part of the U.S. sanctions regime, along the lines of the Cuban restrictions.  Although this would seem redundant, it might aid in enforcement of the travel ban once it comes into effect.

Mark Tokola is the Vice President of the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are his own.

Photo by KEI.

Posted in North Korea, sliderComments (0)


About The Peninsula

The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.