Activists deliver 1,000 postcards and an open letter signed by 62 organizations to the State Department, demanding an end to the ban on travel to North Korea.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, July 27th, U.S.-based Korean peace activists visited the U.S. Department of State, urging the Biden administration to end the travel ban preventing U.S. passport holders from visiting North Korea.

On July 27, 1953, a temporary ceasefire paused the Korean War — but did not end it. 70 years later, there is still no peace agreement, and Korea remains divided in two. Korean peace activists stood in front of the U.S. Department of State to fight for the right to visit the northern part of their homeland. A stack of “end the travel ban” postcards signed by 1,000 individuals and an open letter endorsed by 62 organizations and addressed to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were later delivered by mail.

In 2017, the U.S. government issued a travel ban preventing U.S. citizens from visiting North Korea. The travel ban is renewed each year in August, which gives the Biden administration just under a month from today to either renew the ban or end it.

Since 2017, the travel ban has prevented Koreans with U.S. citizenship from reuniting with long-separated family members and conducting peace-building work in North Korea. Before the travel ban, the U.S.-based organization Nodutdol for Korean Community Development conducted regular trips to North Korea, where delegates built direct, in-person relationships with the people of North Korea. These delegations also delivered medical aid to hospitals and helped Koreans with U.S. citizenship reunite with family members in North Korea. Lifting the travel ban would allow this peace work to continue, after a years-long hiatus.

Betsy Yoon of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development said, “The travel ban is just one dimension of the ongoing Korean War, which has now been in limbo for 70 years. Instead of taking earnest steps to build trust and normalize relations, the Biden administration has ramped up war exercises against north Korea and deployed aircraft carriers, B-2 bombers, and nuclear submarines to south Korea. Lifting the travel ban is an opportunity for the U.S. to break the cycle of escalation and offer a gesture of goodwill to north Korea. This travel ban only serves to further isolate north Korea and prevent Koreans in the U.S. from visiting our relatives and our homeland.”

Cathi Choi, Director of Policy and Organizing at Women Cross DMZ, said, “Thousands of Korean Americans with family members across the DMZ have not seen or heard from their loved ones in decades. While the two Korean governments have facilitated a handful of reunions, these “reunions” last only a few hours, and Korean Americans with family members in the DPRK have been left out of this process entirely. Recognizing the tragedy of this separation, President Biden pledged, days before his election, ‘to reunite Korean Americans separated from loved ones in North Korea for decades.’ He has a moral duty to follow through on that pledge. This collection of postcards speaks to the widespread will of the American public to see a swift end to this draconian travel ban.”

The Palestinian Youth Movement stated: “The Palestinian Youth movement joins tens of organizations in calling on the United States to lift the travel ban on North Korea. The travel ban is an act of violence against the Korean people, dividing families and loved ones, attempting to isolate North Korea, and continuing a legacy of U.S. imperialism in the peninsula. As Palestinians who have experienced the impacts of blockade, colonization, and imperialism, we stand with other progressive organizations in calling for the end of the travel ban, in organizing against the U.S. empire’s continued war against the Korean people, and in supporting Korea’s self-determination and reunification.”

Brian Becker, National Director of Act Now to Stop Racism and End War (ANSWER) Coalition said, “The ban on travel to the DPRK is a gross violation of the rights of Korean Americans and everyone who wants to see peace and understanding prevail over war. The U.S. government is pursuing a profoundly dangerous policy of brinksmanship in Korea, carrying out massive military exercises that simulate an invasion of the North — earlier this month even deploying a nuclear-armed submarine to Korea for the first time since 1981. If people from the United States could travel to North Korea, then they could see for themselves that the demonization of the country is based on lies and that people in the DPRK — like most people everywhere — desire nothing more than peace and mutual respect.”

Democratic Socialists of America International Committee stated: “In-person engagements are one of the most effective ways to work toward normalizing relations and building mutual trust internationally. The Trump administration’s decision over 5 years ago to end all travel to north Korea, and Biden’s continued support for this policy, severely undermines the decades-long work Korean peace organizations have done to build towards ending the Korean War. We call on the administration to end this travel ban which ultimately impedes efforts for peace in Korea.”