[Anchor Lead]
The US government has banned visa-free entry into the United States for travelers who visited North Korea after March 2011. Some 37-thousand South Koreans will be affected by this new restriction, which is expected to deal a blow to North Korea’s tourism industry as well as South Korea’s push to resume tourism to North Korea’s Mount Kumkang resort.
Currently, citizens of 38 countries including South Korea can visit the United States without a visa for as long as 90 days. This is thanks to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA. However the US government has now banned visa-free travel for foreign nationals who have a record of visiting North Korea after March 2011. The new rule applies to all 38 countries under the U.S. visa waiver program. Around 37-thousand South Koreans obtained approval to make cross-border visits to the North during the period in question. The list includes conglomerate chiefs and entertainers who accompanied the president to the inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang last September. Participants of inter-Korean family reunions and business people who visited the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea are also included. These people will now need to apply for a visa at the US embassy in order to travel to America. During their visa interview, they will need to explain why they had visited North Korea. Those violating this new rule and attempting to enter the US using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization can face criminal penalties in accordance with US law.
[Soundbite] KIM IN-CHUL(SPOKESMAN, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS) : “Seoul will closely cooperate with the U.S. to minimize inconveniences.”
The US enforces its ban on visa-free entry to foreign travelers with records of visiting seven countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea was reinstated to this list in November 2017 following the death of the American student Otto Warmbier who was detained in the North. The new tra