Man fined for Passport Act violation after visiting Syria

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Man fined for Passport Act violation after visiting Syria

The Seoul Central District Court said Tuesday that it had fined a 37-year-old salesman from a large local company for traveling to Syria, which is on Korea’s travel ban list.

The court said the man, who was not identified, had been fined 300,000 won ($259) for visiting Syria last year in violation of the Passport Act.

It is rare for the court to implement a penalty for violators of the travel ban.

The defendant entered Syria via Beirut, the Lebanese capital, on Sept. 16, 2014, for five days to build a business network to sell electronic products, the court said.

Earlier that month, the Islamic State (ISIS) released a video clip of the beheading of an American-Israeli journalist who had been kidnapped the previous year, while U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to “degrade and destroy” the militants.

On Sept. 22, the United States led an air strike on ISIS in Syria.

Since 2011, the Korean government has issued a travel ban for Syria, which has served as a stronghold for ISIS, due to political instability, poor security and threats of terrorism.

Those who wish to travel to a banned region or country must first receive approval from the foreign minister.

The man reportedly claimed that after a long civil war in Syria, there were a lot of business opportunities in the country and that he traveled there for the sake of “national interest.”

The defendant further asked the court for a suspended sentence. If he receives a penalty, it could affect him being reissued a passport, which his job depends on, he said.

A court official pointed out that any national benefit that the salesman could have received from selling Korean products was outweighed by the danger he could have faced traveling to Syria.

Last month, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that it would additionally tighten regulations for individuals visiting to nations with travel bans.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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