January 23, 2020 09:47
North Korea has banned foreign tourists and closed borders temporarily as Wuhan coronavirus spreads rapidly.
The outbreak, which has killed three people in China so far, seems to have scuppered North Korea's hopes of earning hard currency from Chinese visitors to a brand-new ski resort town and other facilities it is frantically building.
It also thwarts a bizarre plan by the South Korean government to encourage individual travel to North Korea without encouragement from the North or guarantees for travelers' security.
According to Young Pioneer Tours, a Chinese travel agency specializing in tours to the North, the North Korean regime has asked Chinese travel agencies to "stop sending tourists to the North until a vaccine is developed."
"Closing borders is nearly the only means the North has to cope with the spread of the disease as its capacity to prevent epidemics is very poor," said a defector who used to be a senior official in the North.
Asked Wednesday how the border closure will affect the government's plans here, Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min only said, "We're watching the situation carefully."
Another government official said, "We'll keep reviewing it and making preparations until the situation improves since the government has made no formal proposal to the North yet."
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