Life before freedom?The government had planned to impose a travel ban on certain countries and to punish Koreans who enter those countries without prior permission from the government. But the plan has been put on hold.
Over the weekend, the government convened a committee to designate Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia as banned countries in accordance with the new passport law. But some committee members from the private sector argued that the ban might infringe on the people’s basic right to freedom of movement and asked for the final decision to be deferred.
Some private committee members were against designating off-limit areas, saying that the people’s freedom and rights should be restricted only in exceptional cases and according to strict standards.
Meanwhile, committee members from government bodies said that the protection of lives was the most important concern. The travel ban might infringe on basic rights, but we believe that the government members’ argument is right.
The issue of a travel ban has drawn people’s attention because of the hostage crisis in Afghanistan, in which 22 Koreans have been kidnapped and are being held by Taliban militants. The Koreans ignored the government’s warning against traveling to Afghanistan, went to the country and were kidnapped by the militants.
But, as seen in this crisis, it is solely the government’s responsibility to resolve the crisis. It is unreasonable to cry out for basic rights when the individuals in question cannot take responsibility for the results of their behavior.
Opponents of a travel ban approach the issue with the freedom of movement uppermost in their minds. But the government plans to impose a ban on certain countries to protect people. For this purpose, the passport law was revised so that visitors traveling to travel-ban countries without authorization will face up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 3 million won ($3,200).
The Foreign Ministry already has a four-level alert system to warn travelers: caution, restraint, restriction and prohibition.
Sixty-two countries are in these categories. Some might point out that the freedom to travel is being excessively limited, so travel-ban countries must be selected prudently, taking into account the situation in countries concerned and our relationship with these countries. But what’s most important is the people’s safety. Life is more precious than freedom.