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Tour operators continue to promote North Korea to U.S. citizens

By Elizabeth Shim
Tour operators continue to offer services to U.S. citizens after the death of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died in June. File Photo by KCNA/EPA
Tour operators continue to offer services to U.S. citizens after the death of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died in June. File Photo by KCNA/EPA

July 19 (UPI) -- Tour operators specializing in North Korea travel have not stopped offering their services to U.S. citizens, a month after the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier.

Warmbier, who was detained in January 2016 then released last month, had signed up for a short trip to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours, a Beijing-based operator founded by a British national.

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Following Warmbier's tragic death, the tour company and several firms declined to take U.S. citizens on North Korea-bound excursions.

Competing tour operators, Koryo Tours and Uri Tours, also had issued statements that suggested they would rethink existing policies.

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But Radio Free Asia reported answers to emailed queries to more than ten companies show a gradual return to regular business operations.

Young Pioneer Tours has upheld its decision to turn away potential travelers with U.S. passports, along with New Korea Tours, based in Hamden, Conn., and Juche Travel Services in Britain.

The companies, however, are making exceptions for U.S. citizens with dual passports, according to RFA.

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Beijing-based Koryo Tours and Uri Tours are still accepting travel reservations from Americans.

Uri Tours stated they have released a new "BEFORE Travel" brand of travel packages, and promotes North Korea as an "incredibly safe" destination on its website.

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Lupine Travel in Britain is also accepting U.S. citizens on its tours.

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According to RFA, experts on the matter say there are ethical considerations that are not being taken into account, as agencies book tours to a country known for its widespread rights abuses and arbitrary detentions of foreign nationals.

Several U.S. lawmakers have proposed a travel ban following Warmbier's death, but the State Department has yet to enforce stricter measures following the incident.

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