Tour operator scraps Pyongyang Marathon itineraries amid China outbreak

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Jan. 21 (UPI) — A China-based tour operator has preliminarily canceled all tours to North Korea after offering 12 itineraries on its website earlier this month.

Koryo Tours said all tours to North Korea are suspended as the “borders to the country are all closed.”

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“We believe that the 2021 Marathon will almost certainly be cancelled, so we have removed all tours for this event,” the company said.

Koryo Tours also said the cancellations are being made ahead of time, and that a final confirmation from North Korean partners will come in late February.

The company did not provide additional details or address the recent COVID-19 lockdown in Beijing or outbreaks in northeast China, near the North Korea border.

Last week, the agency continued to offer tours to North Korea in April during the country’s annual Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, which was canceled in 2020.

The itineraries ranged from $780 to $2,170, and included visits to monuments and a captured U.S. spy ship, the USS Pueblo. The company did not mention any mandatory quarantine for travelers.

Koryo Tours also included a “virtual” option to the Pyongyang Marathon, allowing participants for a fee to run any time and anywhere from April 5 to 11.

“Upon completion, you will receive an official Virtual Pyongyang Marathon certificate and medal,” the company had said.

Leisure travel to North Korea must take place on guided tours or with preapproved operators like Koryo Tours.

Tourism was a major source of foreign currency for the Kim Jong Un regime before the pandemic. Other companies still could be preparing for borders to reopen despite current restrictions.

Young Pioneer Tours, the travel agency that took Otto Warmbier to North Korea in 2016, is offering a North Korea tour during the Pyongyang Autumn Marathon, scheduled for September 2022.

Warmbier was a U.S. college student imprisoned there on subversion charges. He was released by North Korea in 2017 in a vegetative state and died soon after being returned to the United States.

North Korea’s borders remain closed, with activities limited to essential trade with China.