U.S. Banning Travel To North Korea Because Getting Arrested There Can Be Very Dangerous

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If you were planning to visit North Korea sometime in the near future, you’ll probably need to cancel that hotel reservation in Pyongyang: The U.S. State Department has issued a ban on travel to the country, citing concerns that American could be in danger while there.

Safety Concerns

On Friday, the Department announced that Secretary Rex Tillerson has authorized a “Geographical Travel Restriction” regarding North Korea.

“Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorized a Geographical Travel Restriction on all U.S. citizen nationals’ use of a passport to travel in, through, or to North Korea,” the department said in its full statement.

Previously, the state department had warned U.S. citizens against visiting North Korea, noting a “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement.”

And because the U.S. doesn’t maintain any diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, if you were to get into trouble, the government doesn’t have any way to provide help like it would through the normal consular channels available to U.S. citizens.

The department intends to publish an official notice in the Federal Register next week, with the restriction going into effect 30 days afterward.

The news follows the death of an American college student who was medically evacuated in a coma from North Korea last month. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016, after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster while he was touring the country. It’s unclear how he was injured.

Some Travel Exceptions

Once the ban is in place, most passports will be invalid for travling to North Korea. However, there are some people who will still be able to get a special validation in order to travel in the country, including for “humanitarian or other purposes.”

It’s unclear what those other purposes may be; we’ve reached out to the Department for details and will update this post if we hear back.

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