Korean Law Demystified!

MOFA’s Travel Prohibition System

Right now, Koreans are prohibited from traveling to the following countries: Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, and parts of the Philippines. This is because of the (Korean) Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Travel Prohibition System which is based upon the Passport Act.


Article 17(1): When deemed necessary to suspend any visit to or sojourn in any specific overseas country or region in order to protect the lives, physical safety and property of people against dangerous circumstances in locations oversea prescribed by Presidential Decree, such as a natural disaster, war, internal disturbance, revolt, terror, etc., the Minister of Foreign Affairs may impose restrictions on the use of a passport or prohibit any visit to and sojourn in the relevant country or region (hereinafter referred to as “restrictions, etc. on the use of passports”), setting a period: Provided, That the Minister of Foreign Affairs may, if he/she deems it necessary, grant permission on the use of a passport, visit or sojourn for any travel to be made for purposes prescribed by Presidential Decree, such as permanent residence, reporting, urgent humanitarian causes, official duties, etc.

Article 26: The following persons shall be punished by imprisonment with prison labor for not exceeding 1 year or by a (criminal) fine not exceeding 10 million won:

3. A person who uses a passport, etc. or visits or stays in a country or region notified as a country or region where visits or sojourn is prohibited in accordance with the provisions of Article 17 (2) and the main sentence of Article 17 (1) without obtaining permission (including cases applied mutatis mutandis in accordance with Article 14 (3)) under the proviso to paragraph (1) of the said Article, despite being aware of such fact.

– Translation by KLRI (Korea Legislation Research Institute)

Back in 2008, the Constitutional Court of Korea found such travel prohibitions as constitutional (2007헌마1366). The Court reasoned that such (transitory) prohibitions were not an excessive infringement on an individual’s constitutional right to free movement. They also pointed out the government has a constitutional duty to protect its nationals.

Some see the travel prohibition as paternalistic, but I’m personally okay with it. Also, that’s not really the main point. I think it’s more the government not wanting to become entangled in a sticky situation.

Thanks for reading!

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