Americans will soon be barred from traveling to North Korea, according to two tour groups who have operated in the country and one U.S. administration official.
Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours – the group that organized Otto Warmbier’s trip – both said that they were contacted and told the U.S. government will invalidate the passport of any U.S. citizen traveling starting 30 days after July 27. Koryo Tours general manager Simon Cockerell told ABC News that the Swedish embassy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the U.S.’s diplomatic liaison in the country, informed his company of the decision.
A Trump administration official later confirmed the change.
It’s unclear what this will mean for the handful of U.S. citizens living in North Korea, including the 40 or so Americans teaching at North Korea’s only private university, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Two Americans still held by North Korea were teaching there.
In past years, somewhere between 800 and 1250 Americans visit North Korea each year, although that number has declined sharply this year following the recent death of Warmbier.
Otto Warmbier was a 21-year-old University of Virginia student who was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 while visiting the country as part of a tour group, held captive by the regime for a year and a half and at some point fell into a coma. He was evacuated and died June 19 of this year, days after returning home. The circumstances of how he fell into a coma are shrouded in darkness, but his case has provoked outrage and concern about other Americans’ safety.