September 1st marked a significant day for humanitarian organizations working in North Korea. It was the day that the U.S. Geographic Travel Restriction (GTR) was renewed for a fifth consecutive year. Since 2017, Americans have been restricted from traveling to North Korea. The official reason is to protect U.S. citizens from undue harm or detainment, even though statistical analyses do not support such a reason. Over 6,000 U.S. citizens have traveled to North Korea since 2000 (Data from the Korean American National Coordinating Council), and there has only been 17 detainees since then, all of whom were released and returned…


The U.S. Department of State extended the travel ban to North Korea for the fifth consecutive year. Since September 1, 2017 U.S. passports have been invalid for traveling to North Korea after Otto Warmbier’s tragic coma and subsequent death. Only select individuals from the U.S. including reporters and humanitarian workers have been allowed to apply for Special Validation Passports to visit the country. These Special Validation Passport applications are issued on a limited basis and greatly impede humanitarian work on the ground.

Current legislation in Congress entitled “Enhancing Humanitarian Assistance to North Korea Act” (H.R. 1504/S. 690) proposes to expedite…


The State Department’s travel ban to North Korea has drastically limited humanitarian assistance to North Korea or the DPRK. Prior to the travel ban, which was implemented on September 1, 2017, U.S. citizens traveled freely in and out of North Korea for a variety of reasons. The most pressing reasons were for Korean-Americans to be re-untied with loved ones in North Korea and for humanitarian organizations to provide life-saving aid on the ground. Prior to 2017, even cultural exchanges took place between the U.S. and North Korea, including a visit from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Since the travel ban…


A statement Tuesday morning on August 10th from leadership in North Korea stated that the country will continue to build nukes if joint U.S.-ROK drills continue. This strong declaration comes in stark contrast to recent thawing of relations between North and South Korea. On July 28th, North and South Korea announced that they restarted key communications between the two countries. Washington D.C. followed by issuing a statement supporting inter-Korean dialogues, but now North Korea is warning that any call for dialogue by the U.S. is considered hypocrisy if joint military exercises proceed.

Republic of Korea and US’s Joint Partnership

If the U.S. and South Korea do conduct…


A week after over 200 constituents across the United States met with Members of Congress to advocate for peace and diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, the Divided Families Reunification Act, H.R.826 has passed in the House! The unresolved Korean War has left Korean-American families with relatives in the North separated for over 70 years. This bill is one step closer to healing and reconciliation for the Korean people.

Since the signing of the Korean War’s Armistice Agreement in 1953, up to 10 million Korean families have been displaced and divided. There has been little to no contact between Korean Americans…


This week over 250 people across 31 states met with 187 Congressional offices urging them to vote for peace on the Korea Peninsula. Currently three bills are calling for the United States to take specific action for peace in Korea.

The first of these legislations is critical for humanitarian engagement inside the DPRK. H.R. 1504/S. 690, known as the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act, aims to ease the impact of sanctions on much-needed humanitarian aid to North Korea. Due to both sanctions and the global pandemic, North Korea is now more isolated than ever before. Humanitarian assistance is essential…


At the end of this summer, it will be four years since the State Department has placed a Geographic Travel Restriction (GTR) on North Korea. With the exception of a select number of humanitarian workers and others within the interests of the United States, all U.S. citizens have been banned from traveling to North Korea since September 1, 2017.

The Geographic Travel Restriction Makes U.S. Passports Invalid for Traveling to North Korea

Prior to the travel ban, my husband and I are some of the few Americans who has lived for an extensive period in North Korea. …


Korean trauma is complicated. Political issues, emotional issues, ideological clashes, and family separations all divide the peninsula. Clearly, the division of North and South Korea has caused trauma in almost every sector of life. This trauma has deeply impacted people’s individual perspectives and expressions as well as shaped their entire culture and identity.

A few weeks ago, a group of us visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the border of North and South Korea to an island called Ganghwado. This island is known for many battles not only between the North and the South but also from other invaders such…


This past weekend was our 23rd Wedding Anniversary. Time truly has truly flown by fast. It is hard to believe that more than half of our married lives have been spent working inside the country of North Korea.

With summer approaching, we celebrated our anniversary by traveling along the East Coast of Korea. Beaches on the East Sea are typically more beautiful than the West Sea, and this is true both in the North and the South. As we drove up the peninsula, we ended up just south of the 38th Parallel. We could even see glimpses of the North’s…


On April 30, the Biden administration announced a finalized North Korea policy review. Although the details of President Biden’s strategy are still forth-coming, the policy aims to strike a balance between President Trump’s all-or-nothing demands and President Obama’s arm’s-length approach. President Trump’s strategy of demanding complete denuclearization or a grand bargain before lifting any sanctions has been rejected by the Biden administration. Instead, the administration seeks to work towards progress while at the same time not ignore North Korea with strategic patience.

President Biden Recently Announced a New North Korea Policy

By striking a middle ground, the Biden administration hopes to forge a new path with North Korea by…

Stephen and Joy Yoon

Joy Yoon and her husband spent more than ten years as humanitarian NGO workers in one of the world’s most mysterious and closed societies.

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