U.S. to Ban American Tourist Travel to North Korea

Kim Jong Un North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un / Getty Images

The United States government is expected to announce a ban on American tourists traveling to North Korea next Thursday, just weeks after U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who was detained by Pyongyang, died after he returned home in a coma.

Two of the biggest travel companies that bring Western tourists to North Korea said the travel ban will start in late August, 30 days after next week's announcement, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, both based in China, said the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang contacted them by phone to notify them of the United States' decision. The Swedish Embassy handles all U.S. diplomatic affairs in North Korea.

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If an American citizen violates the ban, it will result in the U.S. invalidating their passport.

It is unclear whether the ban would also apply to educational and humanitarian work in North Korea.

Young Pioneer stopped bringing U.S. tourists to North Korea last month after Warmbier's death.

Warmbier, then a University of Virginia undergraduate student, was detained in North Korea in late 2015 after traveling to the country with the Young Pioneer tour group.

Warmbier died in June after he returned home to the U.S. from Pyongyang with a severe brain injury.

About one-fifth of the 5,000 Western tourists who visit North Korea each year are U.S. citizens, according to Simon Cockerell, the general manager of Koryo Tours.

At least three Americans are being held in North Korea, though none of them were tourists.