The State Department has issued a small rule change that will affect aid workers who go to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
According to NK News, the State Department will now “allow humanitarian workers to visit North Korea multiple times on a single authorization, rather than just once.”
Under normal circumstances, holders of American passports are not allowed to travel to North Korea, unless they receive a “special validation” passport. The new rule went into effect September 3 and will remain so for four years, continuing through September 30.
“The U.S. Department of State may grant an exception to qualified applicants by issuing a passport with a special validation. Most special validations will permit the bearer to make one round-trip to the DPRK,” the Department’s website says. “In certain qualifying cases subject to additional requirements, the Department of State may approve applicants for a multi-entry special validation, permitting the bearer to make multiple trips to the DPRK during the special validation passport's period of validity of no more than one year. Special validations will only be issued on an extremely limited basis.”
Among those eligible for such validations are journalists, humanitarian workers, one who is a “representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross or the American Red Cross traveling on an officially-sponsored Red Cross mission to the DPRK,” or otherwise representing the national interest.
Traveling to North Korea without the validation could lead to the revocation of a person’s passport, the State Department warned. Those applying must also make clear that this is the type of validation they are seeking.
Daniel Jasper, American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) public education and advocacy coordinator for Asia, told NK News that the changes, while welcome, did not go far enough.
“It is something that we’ve been asking for if they’re not going to rescind the travel restrictions altogether,” Jasper said. “So, a multiple-entry passport is a positive step … [and] might be helpful in the future, but right now, it doesn’t really help us get over that initial hurdle of getting back into the country when the borders are reopened.”
In addition to the State Department restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also been clear about not wanting Americans to travel to North Korea, despite the regime’s repeated claims to have zero cases of the virus.
“Avoid travel to North Korea. If you must travel to North Korea, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the CDC’s current advisory says. In addition to COVID-19 vaccinations, travelers to North Korea are advised to be inoculated against Hepatitis A and B, Japanese Encephalitis, malaria, and rabies, in addition to “routine vaccines” to chickenpox, polio, shingles, Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis and Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR).
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.