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1989. Universal freedom of travel

[Image description: A Korean female clerk at The Korean National Airlines (1946-1962; later dissolved and incorporated into Korean Air) is seen checking in passengers in 1957.]

1989: South Koreans are granted universal freedom of travel, without having to provide any reason to the government. Prior to this, every person leaving the country had to be assessed individually.

Until 1980, no civilian passports were issued.

When the first passports were issued in 1989, up until 1992, all applicants had to pay for an  “Anti-Communist Training” including learning about cases of South Koreans defecting to the North, as well “security information” for a full day, and be issued a certificate for completing the programme, before they could receive their passport.

A video clip by the government states the following:

관계부처와 관광공사 그리고 여행사 자체에서의 교육은 물론 여행자 자신이 여행상식과 정보, 각국의 문화, 관습 등을 보다 철저히 배우는 노력이 있어야 하겠습니다. 관광은 서로 다른 문화 간의 대화이며 흥분과 환상의 세계를 제공하는 것입니다. 그러나 국제관광은 자칫 나라의 위신과 국민 전체의 명예를 손상 시킬 수도 있기 때문에 우리는 해외여행에 앞서 무엇을 보고 어떻게 행동할 것인지를 먼저 계획한 다음, 여행길에 나서야겠습니다.

Related government agencies, the Tourism Board of Korea, travel agencies, and of course the traveller must make a concrete effort to learn about travel manners and knowledge, different cultures and customs. Tourism is a conversation between different cultures and can provide [access to an] exciting and fantastical world. However, international tourism can also damage [our] nation’s standing and the reputation of our people as a whole, and thus we must first plan what we will see [on the journey] and how we will act prior to an international journey, and then set on our path.

My parents were the first generation of Koreans allowed to leave the country. I grew up travelling on my own from the age of 9. Today South Korea and Singapore have the “best passports in the world“, allowing them to travel to 162 countries in the world on a visa waiver.

Freedom of travel
National Archives of Korea

These Surprising Countries Now Have the Most Powerful Passport 
in the World
TIME.21 February, 2018
This entry was posted in: Histories


Internationally lost since 2000, Emily was born in Seoul, raised in India, and has been living and studying in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands since 2014. A translator and interpreter by profession, she enjoys talking and debating just about anything.

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