The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US will ban tourism to North Korea as of next month. This is according to Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, which are two of the biggest tour operators that bring tourists to North Korea. They were apparently told this by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which is responsible for US diplomatic affairs in North Korea. Per the story:
Officers at both companies said the Swedish Embassy told them the U.S. would make the announcement on Thursday next week, with the ban to take effect 30 days later, in late August. Violating the ban would lead to the U.S. government invalidating the traveler’s passport, Young Pioneer said it was told.
All of this comes after Otto Warmbier died a few weeks ago, after having been held in captivity in North Korea for several months. He returned to the US in a coma, and died just days later. He had visited North Korea over New Years, and was accused of trying to steal a North Korean banner from the hotel he was staying at.
North Korea accused him of committing a “hostile act” on behalf of a church, a secretive university organization, and the CIA. Within a couple of weeks he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, as he “confessed to the serious offense against the DPRK he had committed, pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward it, in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”
Obviously what happened to Otto is incredibly tragic. Personally I wouldn’t ever go to North Korea. However, is the risk a basis on which to ban US tourism there? I can see both sides. On one hand I’m all for letting people do what they’d like at their own risk, though on the other hand it quickly becomes the US’ problem when an American goes to a country like North Korea, gets in trouble, and then looks to the US for help.
What do you make of the US banning tourism to North Korea?