Americans Rushing to Visit North Korea; Wait, What?

politics
August 29, 2017

With North Korea almost daily threatening an attack on America soil, and with President Trump promising retaliation if they do, it seems like the totalitarian nation across the Pacific pond would rank somewhere below Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan for top travel destinations. Yet there’s been a sudden — albeit small — wave of Americans rushing to get in.

Despite a horrific human rights record, constant surveillance on visitors, and a string of American incarcerations over minor matters, North Korea has become a top destination for those hurrying to visit it before it’s too late.

Too late for what? A U.S. travel ban to North Korea goes into effect on Friday. It would make U.S. passports invalid in the hermit kingdom.

What that means exactly is not entirely clear since it’s up to North Korea whether or not they accept a traveler with a U.S. passport. The country’s government has already objected to the ban and promised to still let Americans in, according to Newsweek.

“There isn’t any reason for the foreigners to feel threat [sic] to their safety in the DPRK, which has the most stable and strong state system, and numerous foreigners including Americans who visited our country unanimously agree on this. We will always leave our door wide-open to any U.S. citizen who would like to visit our country out of good will and to see the realities with their own eyes,” said a government spokesman.

North Korea’s “realities,” though, are well known to be specifically fabricated in order to fool tourists into thinking the country is faring much better than it actually is.

The U.S. State Department travel advisory website states that Americans who ignore the ban could face “criminal penalties.” And that’s why U.S. citizens like Nicholas Burkhead are visiting the country before Friday.

“With the upcoming travel ban, I felt like it was now or never,” Burkhead explained.

“It’s a pity that anyone curious to go, but especially for North Koreans who might want to know what American visitors are really like,” added fellow traveler Simon Cockerell, who works for a company that arranges tours to North Korea.

Amazingly, a few hundred Americans travel to the totalitarian country every year. But why? For some, it might be to visit family members, but for others, it’s for experiencing the thrill of doing something dangerous. Plus it’s good selfie and bragging rights material. Then there are those who are going there with the hopes of changing the country for the better.

And that’s why there are four exceptions to the U.S. travel ban. Journalists who want to cover what’s going on in North Korea are one of the exceptions. Red Cross workers are another. Aid workers with “compelling humanitarian considerations” can be an exception, too, although it’s unclear if that would include Gospel-preaching missionaries. The fourth exception is for those whose travel to the country is of “national interest” for the U.S.

What do you think of this? Meanwhile, Congress has responded to Trump’s military transgender ban.

Next: Congress Responds to Trump’s Transgender Military BanAug 29, 2017