US Congress to take up legislation banning travel to N. Korea: report

US Congress to take up legislation banning travel to N. Korea: report

WASHINGTON — Congress is expected to take up legislation banning tourist travel to North Korea in the wake of the death of American college student Otto Warmbier shortly after his comatose release from North Korea.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will mark up the bill early next month, CNN reported. Introduced by a bipartisan group of congressmen, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the North Korea Travel Control Act (H.R.2732) calls for prohibiting travel to the North by Americans without permission from the government.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), expressed strong support for the bill.

“People watch these websites that guarantee they can go into North Korea and be secure, be safe, these glossy presentations ? and the reality is that many of these visitors end up being used as bargaining chips by the North Korean regime,” Royce was quoted as telling CNN.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, died last week, six days after he returned to his Ohio home in a coma after 17 months of detention in the North for taking down a political propaganda sign from a hotel.

North Korean officials claimed Warmbier fell into a coma in March last year due to botulism and a sleeping pill. Doctors in the US said Warmbier had severe brain damage and was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”

Right after Warmbier’s death, Royce called strongly for a ban on travel to the North, saying the communist regime “regularly kidnaps foreign citizens and keeps 120,000 North Koreans in barbaric gulags.” (Yonhap)