SEOUL (Reuters) – A foreign tour operator said on Tuesday that North Korea will temporarily ban foreign tourists due to the spread of a new deadly coronavirus in China.
The vast majority of tourists to North Korea come from China, Pyongyang’s main supporter.
Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based adventure travel company, said in a statement that from Wednesday North Korea will temporarily close its borders to all foreign tourists as a precaution against the virus, which has spread rapidly since the Chinese city of Wuhan.
“I have confirmed that the DPRK will temporarily suspend all foreign tourists entering North Korea until they feel the coronavirus is under control,” Rowan Beard of Young Pioneer Tours told Reuters, referring to North Korea for the initials of his Official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The company’s travel partners in North Korea have not yet confirmed more details, according to the Young Pioneer Tours statement.
A manager of another foreign travel company contacted by Reuters said they had also been informed of such a move, but it was still unclear who would be affected by the policy, and more details are expected Wednesday.
Fears grow about the virus, which could spread through human contact, with millions of Asians traveling during the Lunar New Year holidays this week. In China, the number of confirmed cases increased to 291 on Monday.
Tourism is one of the last major ways in which North Korea can legally earn foreign cash, as international sanctions restrict many other forms of business with the politically isolated country.
It is estimated that North Korea earns millions of dollars from the constant flow of Chinese tourists.
South Korean economic airline T’way Air said on Tuesday it postponed the scheduled launch of a new route to Wuhan due to concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.
(This story has been filled in to eliminate strange words in penultimate paragraph)
Josh Smith report; Edition by Angus MacSwan