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Over 200 S. Koreans issued government certificates of N.K. trips after U.S. visa rule change

Diplomacy 11:06 September 12, 2019

SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- More than 200 South Koreans have been issued government certificates showing state authorization of their previous trips to North Korea, the unification ministry said Thursday, after the United States tightened visa requirements for those with records of trips to the communist nation.

The U.S. enforced a new visa rule last month, 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 South Korean government has been providing a certificate of state authorization with information on their visits, such as the purpose of the trips.

According to the ministry, 196 certificates were issued online between Aug. 16 and Sept. 10. Five additional certificates were issued offline before the online certificate system was put in place last month.

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.
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