Gov’t mulls providing documents on citizens’ N.K. visits after U.S. visa rule change

SEOUL, The unification ministry is considering providing people with records of visits to North Korea with documents detailing the purposes of their trips after the United States decided not to waive visas for such people, officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. government enforced the new visa rule on Monday, under which those with records of visits to the North since March 2011 are no longer eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and must go through an interview and other steps.

In order to support those who would have to go through a visa interview and explain their visit to the North under the new rule, the ministry is considering providing a document with information on their visit, such as the purpose of the trip, officials said.

The U.S. said the new travel restriction followed its 2017 redesignation of the North as a state sponsor of terrorism. Since 2016, the U.S. has not allowed the entry through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization ESTA of foreigners who have visited one of seven countries since 2011: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

In South Korea, as many as 37,000 people the number of those who received state approval to visit the North during the cited period could be affected by the revised regulation.

Amid concerns over increased inconvenience, the government has vowed to bolster administrative support to minimize its impact.

Unification ministry spokesperson Lee Sangmin said Wednesday the ministry will continue consultations with related government agencies, as well as with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

We also have a specific plan to meet (over the issue), he said during a regular press briefing on Wednesday, without elaboration.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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