I am reading on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nationalities_forbidden_at_border:

Due to safety concerns, the South Korean government prohibits its citizens from traveling to several countries and areas [Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Philippines (Zamboanga City, Sulu Archipelago, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi), North Korea].

Typically governments simply issue warnings to its citizens against traveling to some other countries, but don't make it illegal to do so. Why does South Korea forbid its citizens from entering some countries?

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    Looking at the list, it seems those are places where South Koreans are likely to be kidnapped. So not wanting to pay for their ransom and/or incur other related costs, I suppose. Jan 18, 2020 at 23:51
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    "to certain 6 countries" is followed in the quote by a list of 7 countries.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 20, 2020 at 15:50
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    @Evargalo thanks but if I write 7, people may also complain that North Korea isn't recognized as a country by South Korea or that for Philippines only areas are banned, not the entire country. I'll simply remove the count then. Jan 20, 2020 at 17:04
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    @WS2: actually they do make it illegal, punishable by a fine or up to one year in (SK) prison koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2017/01/120_221302.html And that's for those 6 countries. For NK the potential punishments are more severe, under some SK national security laws. These have been applied to NK defectors that then went back north (e.g. to visit family) and returned to the South. Jan 21, 2020 at 3:04
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    @WS2: For an example of the latter see nknews.org/2012/07/… Jan 21, 2020 at 3:12

2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia article you linked actually links a source which attempts to explain it a bit:


It is a 6-month extension of the previous ban that was scheduled to end Jan. 31.

The move was aimed at protecting South Korean people's lives and property from those countries and regions suffering political instability, frequent terror threats and poor security infrastructure, the ministry said.

Above and beyond that, there's some interesting reading in the others that might provide additional speculation points, if anyone is interested.

For example, the US bans entry into North Korea because "They also threatened U.S. citizens with being treated in accordance with the “wartime law” of the DPRK" despite us not actually being at war.

Several cases are simply because one of the involved countries doesn't recognize the sovereignty of the other state (namely Israel and Palestine), so it's a technical issue and if you show up there, you'll be treated as if you showed up with a fake passport. I can think of reasons why those countries would ban travel of their citizens in those cases, above and beyond a warning.

The UK government has had phenomenal pressure to intervene in the case of the teenager who was arrested and charged with making a false statement about being gang raped in Cyprus. That case has received international attention and has certainly cost taxpayers in dealing with it.

The US government reportedly had to sign an agreement to pay $2m USD for the care of Otto Warmbier's care after he went into a coma while being held in a North Korean prison for stealing a poster from his hotel (he was charged with Subversion). The White House denies paying this bill.


As you can see, while only a brief, vague official reason was given, there are plenty of causes where if significant friction between two states exists, banning, rather than simply warning, might merit consideration. Diplomatic incidents can worsen already stressed relationships and cost the involved states a significant amount of money under public pressure to safeguard citizens overseas, even if a warning was in place beforehand.

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    I want to be very clear that my language was as neutral as possible regarding the UK teen. The actual guilt/innocent of the teen OR the Israeli men are not at issue, nor important, to the question asked or its answer. The actual facts of that incident, whatever they may be, do not change the effort and cost put forth by the UK government.
    – AHamilton
    Jan 20, 2020 at 12:37
  • Maybe it's my American bias, but is there a country claiming that there is an existing state of "Palestine?" While some states do not recognize Israel as a sovereign entity, is there a country treating "Palestine" as a state which exists rather than as a state that should exist?
    – wrod
    May 22, 2022 at 21:29

The South Korean government started banning people from visiting certain countries because of an incident where the Taliban kidnapped Korean nationals in Afghanistan. In 2007, a South Korean church group went on a mission to Afghanistan, despite the government strongly urging them not to go, and got kidnapped by the Taliban. Two of them died, and the South Korean government had to offer concessions to the Taliban to bring the hostages home. After that, the legislature passed a law that punishes people who visit certain countries that are deemed unsafe.

As for the case with North Korea, South Korea does not recognize North Korea as an independent state but instead considers it an area under rebel control. Thus, they ban any unauthorized contact with North Korea, including visits by citizens.

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