Americans reach North Korea to beat travel ban
Journalists among those risking imprisonment before ban kicks in on September 1st
By Chyung Eun-ju, Park Si-soo
A group of American travellers — probably the last before the U.S. government bans its citizens from visiting the reclusive state from September 1 — landed in North Korea on Saturday.
The eight travellers — including CNN correspondent Will Ripley on his 14th trip — were undeterred by possible arrest, imprisonment or nuclear war.
Details about the other tourists, including their itinerary, are unknown. Beijing-based Koryo Tours organised the visit, which general manager Simon Cockerell is leading on his 165th trip to the North.
“It [the ban] is a pity for anyone curious who wants to go, but especially for North Koreans who might want to know what American visitors are really like,” Cockerell told CNN.
Ripley posted on his Instagram story the song “Where are you, dear general?” which is played hourly across the country to remind people of their late leaders’ sacrifices.
“With the upcoming travel ban, I felt like it was now or never,” said Nicholas Burkhead from Virginia, expressing regret that he had not learned Korean before the ban.
The U.S. State Department will invalidate passports for travel to, through and in North Korea from September 1. U.S. citizens will have to obtain a passport with a special validation for travel to or within North Korea.
The ban is in retaliation for the death of American Otto Warmbier, who was jailed in the North, but sent home to die.