The United States is set to ban travel to North Korea, according to two tour operators that arrange travel to the country.
According to Reuters, Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours have said that the U.S. is planning to ban all travel to the isolated country.
“We have just been informed that the U.S. government will no longer be allowing U.S. citizens to travel to the DPRK (North Korea),” Young Pioneer Tours said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post. “It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27. After the 30 day grace period any U.S. national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government.”
According to the Post, American student Otto Warmbier died after using China-based Young Pioneer Tours to travel to North Korea. He arrived in the country in January of last year and was arrested for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment with hard labor and died June 19 at the age of 22, six days after being released in a coma and flown to his home in Cincinnati.
The ban comes as the country is apparently stepping up efforts to promote itself to U.S. tourists. NPR reports that last week the country published a new tourism website touting its “beautiful and picturesque landscape.”
“Today the tourist industry in the DPRK is developing afresh under the wise leadership of supreme leader Kim Jong Un,” the website says. It also promotes the country’s beaches, golf courses and surfing tours.
According to the latest North Korea travel warning from the State Department, U.S. citizens are strongly warned not to travel to the country, where they are at “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement.”
“At least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years,” the State Department said. “North Korean authorities have detained those who traveled independently and those who were part of organized tours. Being a member of a group tour or using a tour guide will not prevent North Korean authorities from detaining or arresting you. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not been successful.”