North Korea tourism: US to ban Americans from visiting
They were informed by the Swedish embassy, which conducts US affairs in the country. US officials have confirmed the ban to US media and linked it to the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier, but given no details on date or scope.
Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours both revealed on Friday that they had been told of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which acts for the US as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Rowan Beard, of Young Pioneer Tours, told the BBC the embassy was urging all US nationals to depart immediately. He said the embassy was trying to check on the number of US tourists left in the country.
A Young Pioneer Tours statement said: “It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27th.
“After the 30-day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government.”
Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would “give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work”.
Simon Cockerell, of Koryo Tours, said: “It remains to be seen what the exact text is, but the indication is it’s just a straight up ban on Americans going.”
AP news agency quoted US officials as saying that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to implement a “geographical travel restriction” for North Korea, meaning the use of US passports to enter would be illegal.
Mr Cockerell told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.
In May, two congressmen introduced the North Korea Travel Control bill to cut off the foreign currency the country earns from American tourists.
The House foreign affairs subcommittee is scheduled to take up the draft legislation on 27 July but it would still have to go to the Senate. So there could be an executive order.
North Korea only relaxed its rules for American visitors in 2010. The state department does not keep a record of the number of American tourists. Tour operators suggest that up to 1,000 visit every year.