The Magazine

Don’t Go There

Jun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
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For all these reasons, it’s better to have a clean travel ban. The State Department did post a “travel warning” about North Korea in November 2013, but it has manifestly failed to dissuade Americans from traveling there. 

A travel ban is not a policy to take lightly—it limits Americans’ freedom of movement, an essential liberty. But in the case of North Korea, it’s worth the cost. The interests of U.S. national security and the well-being of the North Korean people outstrip the right of “misery tourists” and Stalinist fellow travelers to visit a theme park of totalitarianism and contribute financially to the world’s cruelest regime. It’s not as if touring North Korea had educational benefits, either; tourists are on a tightly controlled itinerary, and the entire time they’re in the country they’re accompanied by minders, who ensure that no spontaneous interactions with local people occur. 

Those with a genuine interest in Korean culture, meanwhile, needn’t despair: Instead of visiting the living hell that is North Korea, they would remain free to travel to the thriving, beautiful, and democratic country of 50 million that lies just south of the 38th parallel. Seoul is lovely this time of year.

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