The Future of Korean Citizens Traveling to the US

I’m about to enter my senior year of college and I’m already thinking about my graduation ceremony. Will the weather be nice? Who will be the guest speaker at commencement? Will my family be there to see me receive my diploma? Until recently, I have always considered the last one to be an unnecessary concern because my parents strongly believe that graduations are tributes primarily for the parents, rather than the students. They are patiently waiting to be honored for hearing me complain about that professor who assigned too much work and that friend who stole my food. However, the current international political climate, has made me reevaluate the possibility of my family visiting me in America and their safety if they do come.

My father, one of my brothers, and myself are United States citizens of Korean descent, unlike my mother and other brother who, only carry Korean passports. As a family, we have always enjoyed the privilege of traveling without ever worrying about immigration issues. Especially when flying to and from the US, we never had to think about being sent back because of where we come from. But, with North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch, and growing tensions with the U.S., China and South Korea, who knows what the future holds.

Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear program has escalated greatly. In the beginning, very few people thought North Korea would ever successfully create and launch a missile. June 7th marked the tenth attempt to cause damage in 2017 alone; then on July 4th, South Korea confirmed North Korea’s successful launch of a missile. The failed attempts had the world reacting, the US government deployed an anti-missile system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). Although Park Geun-Hye, South Korea’s first female president who was impeached over corruption charges, approved the installation of THAAD, the recently elected Moon Jae-In has ordered a review of the anti-missile system. If failed attempts cause this, then what will this new advancement cause? Will my family be safe in South Korea? If they come to the US, will they be safe here, or become victims of profiling and legalized discrimination?

Last time America had a major issue with an East Asian country, it was WWII and Japanese – American citizens were legally placed in internment camps. After the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps, 62% of whom were US citizens. The camps were made legal by the Executive Order 9066, allowing military commanders to create “military areas” where anyone can be excluded from. America has gone too far in the past. With tensions at an all time high, discrimination in the name of national security is a legitimate concern.


Obviously, I know, there is a difference between North Koreans and South Koreans, but does America know that? If a Hijabi woman of any ethnicity can get stopped at airports for additional screening, who is to say, the rights of South Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and other East Asians will not be infringed upon. The Patriot Act, created after 9/11, gives the government permission to intrude on our lives, once it’s in the name of anti-terrorism. So what if it is my family being stopped at the airport, calls being monitored, or even being barred from entering the country, those of us with and without citizenship alike?

I do not know the answers to most of my questions, but I do know that in the United States, land of the free, freedom can be withdrawn, conditional, and relative. Until tensions decrease between the US and North Korea, my family’s future together at graduation will remain uncertain. Hopefully the right political moves are made to de-escalate the problem and work towards cordial diplomacy, or at least not the brink of war.