Otto Warmbier’s Travel Agency Stops Taking American Tourists to North Korea After 'Risk Became too High'

Kim Il-Sung Square, Pyongyang North Korea
Pyongyang, North Korea // Photo by alexkuehni/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Neil Connor, The Telegraph, June 20, 2017

A tour agency that took Otto Warmbier into North Korea before he was detained for 18 months has said it will stop taking Americans into the reclusive state.

Mr Warmbier, a student from the United States, died on Monday after he was repatriated back to his family in Ohio suffering from severe brain damage.

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Young Pioneer Tours, an agency operated largely by expats in the north Chinese city of Xi’an, had previously described North Korea as "probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit.”

Inside North Korea

However, it said in a statement on its website on Tuesday that Mr Warmbier’s death had “led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists”.

“There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality and we have been struggling to process the result,” the statement continued.

“Now, the assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high.”

Following Mr Warmbier’s death, US President Donald Trump issued a statement offering condolences to his family and denouncing "the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim." 

His death came amid growing tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

Mr Trump’s administration has appeared confrontational towards North Korea, and has declared an end to a period of “strategic patience” from Washington.

However, Kim Jong-un's regime has carried out a series of provocative missile tests.

Last week Mr Warmbier's family said they had been told their son was given a sleeping pill following his trial in March 2016 and had never woken up.

Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, also heavily criticised Young Pioneer Tours, accusing it of “luring young Americans” for the North Koreans. 

It remains unclear what caused the University of Virginia student’s severe health problems when he was in North Korea.

John McCain, a Republican senator, accused North Korea of murdering and torturing Mr Warmbier in a Twitter post.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based campaign group, said the death of Mr Warmbier showed that Mr Kim’s regime “will not hesitate to brutalise and kill to maintain their hold on power”.

He also condemned the North’s record on human rights, his spokesman said. Moon Jae-In, the South Korean president, has sent a letter of condolence to Mr Warmbier’s family, AFP news agency said. 

Three more US citizens are being held by the North, including two teachers at a Pyongyang university which has links to overseas Christian groups, and a Korean-American pastor.

 

This article was written by Neil Connor from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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