north Korea’s borders just became more restricted. Sources in North Korea have informed foreign tour companies that the pariah nation will no longer be accepting international tourists due to the threat of the Ebola virus.
According to a Facebook post by Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based, British-run North Korea tour company, its Pyongyang-based partners working for the government notified the company that the borders will be closed to international travelers effective immediately.
Nick Bonner, the owner of Koryo Tours, told the South china Morning Post that the company received “panicked” calls saying, “the country’s closed,” from partners working with the North’s state-run tourism bureau, the Korean International Travel Company. Koryo Tours was also told that even popular border crossings devoted to trade rather than tourism, particularly the Dandong crossing with China would be closed. “All borders will be totally sealed,” Bonner said.
The border closing comes days after the Pyongyang government began expressing the need for preparation in the event tourists traveled to North Korea after visiting Ebola-stricken arwas of West Africa. “Two days ago, we were told that if we had people visiting North Korea who’d been to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, that they would have to have a health check to prove that they didn’t have Ebola and it’s escalated [from there] over the past two days,” Gareth Johnson, the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based tourism company that also coordinates travel to North Korea, said. It isn’t clear how long the border closure will last.
This isn’t the first time North Korea has shut its borders amid global health scares. In 2003, Bonner recalled, a similar strict border closing was mandated after severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, hit China. Most recently, North Korea restricted some travel amid the avian flu scare last year, cancelling tourist flights from Shanghai.