North Korean authorities have canceled all visits by foreign tourists and businessmen to the capital Pyongyang in advance of the Sept. 9 anniversary of the founding of the country’s communist regime, North Korean sources say.
The ban, which runs from Aug. 11 through Sept. 5, has inconvenienced representatives of foreign firms, some of whom had already made travel plans, an ethnic Korean businessman based in Shenzhen, China, told RFA’s Korean Service.
“I had bought a ticket for a flight to Pyongyang for mid-August,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“However, my North Korean partner told me a week ago to postpone my trip and schedule it again for some time after Sept. 5,” he said.
Citing “certain circumstances at his company,” the North Korean business partner would offer no further explanation, the source said.
“But he sounded very certain, so I canceled my ticket, which had been difficult to arrange, and now I’m looking for new dates to go to Pyongyang. Though now I’m thinking I may just have to cancel the trip completely,” he said.
“I suspect the real reason for the sudden request to postpone my trip is that they want visitors available to watch the mass gymnastics displays on Sept. 9, the anniversary of the founding of the Republic,” he said.
Others had also given up their plans to go to Pyongyang because their North Korean business partners had asked them to, he said, adding, “It’s possible that the authorities have ordered the North Korean trading companies to postpone the visits.”
Group tours canceled
Also speaking to RFA, a source in the Chinese border city of Dandong said that an Aug. 10 government order suspending “group tours” to the capital cited an urgent need to renovate all hotels in Pyongyang.
“But South Korean and other foreign media say that this is related to preparations for a military parade on Sept. 9 and for a visit by the Chinese vice president.”
“I think they could be right about that,” he said.
Though the government order suspends group tours beginning Aug. 11, tours for foreign tourists to the North Korean city of Sinuiju, near the border with China, and to the coastal region of Rason are continuing to run, the source said.
“So it seems likely they are trying only to keep foreigners away from Pyongyang during those dates,” he said.
“North Korea says they are suspending group tours, but they don’t allow individual tours anyway, so this means that they are blocking all visits by foreigners to Pyongyang,” he said.
Reported by Joonho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.