Two tour agencies that act in North Korea were given the news that the United States will soon implement a ban on all visits to North Korea by U.S. citizens. The message was sent through the Swedish Embassy. The Swedish Embassy acts as a U.S. surrogate because of strained ties with the communist country.
The U.S. government has not confirmed the news, but the tour agencies said the ban is to be announced on July 27, the same day North Korea celebrates Victory Day, the end of the Korean War, which technically never ended. U.S. citizens will then have 30 days to leave the country.
Both Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours announced today, July 21 that they would no longer be taking U.S. citizens to North Korea. One of the announcements mention that Americans will get their passports invalidated by the United States if they still choose to go. Both tour companies were started by British men living in China.
Twenty-two-year-old college student Otto Warmbier was sent back to the United States in a coma-like state after imprisonment in North Korea. He had taken a propaganda poster from a hotel. He died shortly after.
Three U.S. citizens are known to currently be in custody in North Korea. According to the BBC, these are the three that remain:
Kim Dong-chul, a 62-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in South Korea, who was sentenced to 10 years at hard labor in April 2016 for spying.
Korean-American professor Kim Sang-duk (or Tony Kim) who was detained in April 2017. The reasons for his arrest are not yet clear.
Kim Hak-song, like Kim Sang-duk, worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and was detained in May 2017 on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state.
The United States does not keep track of how many citizens visit North Korea, but the tour companies suggested 1,000 per year.