Following the death of an American, who was arrested and held in North Korea, tourism in the communist state has come under scrutiny. Roughly 1,000 Americans visit North Korea every year, according to a report by The Washington Post. Continued tourism into the nation is now in doubt after Otto Warmbier – imprisoned in the country for more than 17 months – was flown back to the United States in a coma. Warmbier died this week, and now his father is speaking out against anyone promoting tourism in North Korea.
Fred Warmbier has said this week that companies who promote North Korean tourist are offering the regime “fodder,” and he’s not alone in his views. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, Edward Royce, has said that Otto’s father is correct in his assertion. He said that travel propaganda is taking too many Americans to the country on vacation. Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, has set out to attract as many as two million tourists to the country by 2020, in an attempt to boost the national economy.
Royce even said that the United States should ban any travel to North Korea.
Warmbier was a student of the University of Virginia who visited North Korea to satisfy his curiosity about the world, according to an April interview with his father Fred. In late 2015, Otto Warmbier joined a “New Year’s Party Tour” organized by Young Pioneer Tours. The firm boasted that they provided budget vacations to destinations that “your mother wants you to stay away from.”
In an effort to stop Kim Jong Un from achieving his goal, the State Department has warned American citizens against traveling to the country, advising that those who go will be risking arbitrary detention. The case of Warmbier could serve as an example of this, after being sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly stealing a poster. New efforts to discourage Americans from visiting North Korea are now more likely to gain steam, after the high-profile nature of Warmbier’s death. Both side of the aisle are now calling the North Korean communist regime “murderous” and “barbaric.”
A bill has already been presented to the House of Representatives, which aims to restrict travel to North Korea by citizens of the United States. The recent news about Warmbier could encourage the same bill to be put before the Senate, and ultimately accepted. The Trump administration has also discussed the possibility of banning travel to the country.
As well as the terrible story of Otto Warmbier, three American citizens are being detained in North Korea to this day. These three Americans were working in North Korea, one at a hotel in one of the country’s special economic zones, and two at a Korean-American university.
Young Pioneer Tours has also announced that it will no longer be offering travel to North Korea for American citizens, stating that the risk is too high.