The US is about to ban its citizens from visiting North Korea, travel agencies say


BERLIN — The United States is set to introduce a ban on its citizens travelling to North Korea for tourism, travel agencies that operate tours there said Friday.

Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours said they had been informed that the U.S. will announce the ban on July 27 and it was expected to go into effect 30 days later.

“From that time onwards it will no longer be legal for anyone travelling on a U.S. passport to visit the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea] as a tourist,” Koryo Tours said in a statement.

Young Pioneer Tours said that “after the 30-day grace period any U.S. national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government.”

Young Pioneer Tours, based in the Chinese city of Xi’an, was the agency that organized U.S. student Otto Warmbier’s trip to North Korea last year during which he was arrested.

A student at the University of Virginia, Warmbier was arrested for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda banner from his hotel and charged with hostile acts against the state.

He was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp after a one-hour trial in March 2016. In June, he was freed from North Korea in a coma and died a week later in the U.S. Young Pioneer Tours announced the next day it would stop taking U.S. citizens on tours to Pyongyang.

Three other Americans are currently being held by Pyongyang.

Young Pioneer Tours, which was started by a group of expats living in China in 2008, advertises itself as a specialist in tours to North Korea, offering “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

Koryo, which has operated tours to North Korea since 1993, said it would continue to take U.S. citizens to destinations such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Far East Russia.