U.S. Sanctions on Air Koryo: Impact on North Korea Travelers

Today, the U.S. expanded sanctions on North Korea to include Air Koryo, the national carrier of DPRK. Under Executive Order (E.O.) 13722, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Air Koryo. Below is a quick FAQ that explains the impact of these sanctions on people traveling to North Korea on Air Koryo.

As an American, can I still travel to North Korea on Air Koryo?

Yes. Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), while the U.S. President can issue broad sanctions with respect to countries that pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the U.S., IEEPA explicitly carves out exemptions for travel and transactions ordinarily incident to travel:

United States Code Annotated
Title 50. War and National Defense
Chapter 35. International Emergency Economic Powers
§ 1702. Presidential authorities

(b) The authority granted to the President by this section does not
include the authority to regulate or prohibit, directly or

(4) any transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from any
country, including importation of accompanied baggage for personal
use, maintenance within any country including payment of living
expenses and acquisition of goods or services for personal use, and
arrangement or facilitation of such travel including nonscheduled air,
sea, or land voyages.

Under this exemption, Americans can still book flights on Air Koryo, and U.S. travel agencies can sell, issue tickets and facilitate arrangements for travelers on Air Koryo. In a similar case, Iran Air was a designated entity under U.S. sanctions until very recently. In an interpretive guidance letter, OFAC applied the travel exemption to the reservation and issuance of airline tickets for the entire trip between Iran and the United States.

Furthermore, only the U.S. Congress can prohibit travel to a particular country, as it did in past years in the case of Cuba. There are no such travel restrictions for North Korea. See answer to Question 464 in the OFAC FAQs.

What activities related to Air Koryo are against sanctions?

U.S. persons cannot engage Air Koryo for any other activity except for the purpose of travel.

Do these new sanctions affect tourism?

E.O. 13722 does not prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from any country. This means that U.S. persons can travel to North Korea. You are also still permitted to book tours to North Korea with a U.S. tour operator. It is our position that Uri Tours’ travel activities are covered under the IEEPA exemptions.

Is it safe to travel to North Korea?

Yes. Uri Tours has been operating tours to North Korea for over 15 years. In our wide experience, DPRK travel is safe, highly experiential and rewarding. We provide a comprehensive orientation packet that explains the do’s and don’ts. As an American company, we take many American travelers safely to North Korea.

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