South Korea, Japan, China, South Pacific, and the Travel Ban to North Korea

September 2, 2017, 7:00 am

As you are likely aware, North Korea’s state-run news agency on 9 August said that the military was examining plans to strike areas around Guam (US) with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles. The threat was allegedly made in reaction to maneuvers on 8 August by US B-1B bombers and Japanese and South Korean aircraft over the Korean peninsula; the bombers flew from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The North Korean threat also coincided with a statement from US president Donald Trump threatening that North Korea would ‘face fire and fury like the world has never seen’. While the developments portend escalating tensions, travel to South Korea and Guam can continue. Members should continue to defer travel to North Korea.

On 29 August, North Korea launched a ballistic missile from near the capital of Pyongyang. The missile flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the Pacific. Air raid warnings were sounded in northern Japan and people were asked to seek shelter. Japan did not intercept the missile and the government has stated that it assessed that the missile was not a threat to Japanese territory.

 

South Korea

The significant impact of any military confrontation means that individuals should maintain escalation plans. Many locations within South Korea have fallout shelters and other places that are safer in the event of a military escalation.

  • Download the AFN 360 app that is available for smart phones. All AFN stations in Korea can be listened to real-time via smartphone or on a computer with internet connection. During any crises or contingency, listeners will be able to get up to the minutes information.
    • From your computer, access, www.afnpacific.net, click on the AFN 360 link, and choose a desired stream from the menu. 
    • On a mobile device, download the AFN Pacific Mobile App for iPhone or Android devices. For Apple products, go to the app store and search for AFN Pacific; for Android, go to Google Play and search for AFN Pacific
  • Download the ROK Ministry of Public Safety and Security "Emergency Ready" app for smartphones and tablets. The app is free and allows users to make emergency 119 calls quickly, locate the nearest emergency shelters, etc. 

For more information, please see the U.S. Embassy Seoul.

 

Japan and US territories in the region, including Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (US)

The security environment in Japan, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands is linked to tensions on the Korean peninsula.

  • Japan's National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has an Android and iPhone app called "Safety Tips" that sends disaster alerts in multiple languages. For more information visit the JNTO website
  • If you have a smartphone with a contract to a local Japanese mobile provider, you may already be able to  receive safety alerts as a text message. Check with your local provider, as this typically requires a unique email address associated with your mobile account. (U.S. Embassy Tokyo

Guam Homeland Security, Office of Civil Defense created a fact sheet in preparation for an imminent missile threat. (Please note, while threats have been made, it is unknown at this time if the threat is imminent). Some tips from the fact sheet include:

  • Build an emergency supply kit to have on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • Make a list of potential concrete shelters near the home, workplace, or school.
  • Listen for official information and follow instructions provided by emergency response personnel.
  • Stay where you are, even if separated from family or friends. Inside is the safest place for all people in the impacted area.
  • Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours, unless otherwise told by authorities.

Please see the Guam Homeland Security website for the complete Fact Sheet: In Case of Emergency. The link is not accessible on the Google Chrome web browser. 

 

China

China has increased security along its border with North Korea. The military carried out live-fire drills in March, April, June and July and has allegedly been reinforcing defensive infrastructure along its border with North Korea. However, such actions are confined to remote areas immediately along the frontier, where access for foreigners is already limited.

 

Fallout Shelters 

South Korea has nearly 19,000 fallout shelters throughout the country, including many for public use. According to authorities, 3,300 of those shelters are in Seoul; this is thought to accommodate those living in the city. The shelters were built during the Korean War and do not protect from nuclear or biological weapons, but can be effective to protect people from bombs and missiles. In South Korea, most are in subway stations, parking garages, or basements. These are marked with specific signs. 

In Tokyo, there are an unknown number of fallout shelters from World War II, but  according to Japanese officials, they are not open to the public and there is not a plan to restore the shelters for public use. 

 

U.S. Travel Ban to North Korea

The US government on 2 August announced plans to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea from 1 September 2017. The ban is likely to be in effect for a year. While journalists and aid workers are exempt from the ban, all other citizens are advised to leave the country before 1 September. The ban was imposed for safety reasons amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea.

Travel Advice

  • Defer all travel to North Korea; the government has previously restricted the mobility of foreigners in the country (including detaining individual travelers) during periods of heightened diplomatic tensions. There are also extremely limited legal and diplomatic avenues of recourse for foreigners and their national government in the event of any dispute or detention by the authorities. 
  • Monitor news and other alerts (from credible sources) to remain apprised of related developments.
  • If the situation escalates, and you are planning travel to one of these countries, research the closest shelter in the vicinity of you accommodations. Ask your host institution for more information on where to find a shelter. 

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8059 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.