The US State department has banned travel to North Korea by US citizens. Since 2010, American tourists have been allowed to visit North Korea on official tours led by the North Korean government. But in June, a 22-year-old American citizen died after being arrested in North Korea for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster.
This incident in combination with the increasing hostilities between Kim Jong Un and President Trump have made a travel ban a matter of public safety. All North Korea visas are effectively canceled as of September 1, 2017, and you will not be able to get a new visa to North Korea. All Americans currently in North Korea are advised to get home by the end of the month (if not much sooner). Travel will still be permitted on an extremely restricted basis for some journalists and humanitarian workers.
Otto Wambier, the young man who died, was a student at the University of Virginia. After he was arrested, the North Korean government informed the US that Wambier’s health had seriously deteriorated while he was in custody. He had been sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor.
Wambier was sent back to the United States in a comatose state, and he died six days after returning. Evidently, the doctors who performed his autopsy found that his brain had suffered an “extensive loss of tissue,” but said there were no obvious signs of external trauma.
Obviously, the relationship between the United States and North Korea has been strained for decades. Even when tourism was permitted, only about 500 to 1,000 US tourists were admitted to the country each year, and only under the watchful gaze of the tyrannical regime. Who visited? People who were curious to see what the country was really like (though they were only shown a very particular view of the country), people who hoped to see family members, and journalists, primarily.
While visiting North Korea, US tourists could only take photographs with permission from the North Korean government. Religious materials of any sort were not allowed in. Tourists were required to show reverence to the leaders of the North Korean government. And the country had no US embassy. Over the years, several Americans were arrested for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
The current ban is likely to stay in effect for many years. If you were hoping to get a peek inside North Korea, you’ll have to wait. Something big will have to shift before that chance will arise again.