Aug. 31 (UPI) -- As the United States prepares to implement a North Korea travel ban on Sept. 1, some humanitarian organizations are concerned the policy could jeopardize ongoing projects.
Americans are reportedly leaving Pyongyang ahead of the ban, but others are more concerned the government restrictions could disrupt programs that include deliveries of medication to North Korea, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Kim Taehoon, founder of a U.S.-based humanitarian group that has been carrying out an HIV-diagnosis and treatment program in North Korea for several years, told The Times the ban poses potential problems for aid workers.
"I didn't want any of the staff or any of the colleagues to potentially face issues when they were getting out," Kim said. "Because of the uncertainty of the travel ban, we don't know if we will be able to do on-the-ground work anymore."
Humanitarian workers are still eligible to apply for a special validation visa, issued by the U.S. State Department, but only "in extremely limited circumstances."
Aid workers, officials and journalists must also travel for "the national interest," according to new U.S. guidelines.
Announcement of the ban came in July, following the death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier was released in June in a coma, and his father, Fred Warmbier, claimed his son may have been tortured while in detention.
About 1,000 Americans traveled to North Korea annually before the incident.
North Korea has called the ban "childish" and has said it would keep doors "wide open to any U.S. citizen who would like to visit our country out of good will."