North Korea has frozen all tourist visa applications that are underway until 9 September, tour company Kyoryo Tours revealed today.
The move comes after visits by Chinese tourists were suspended by North Korea capital Pyongyang.
The reason for the suspension of tourist visas is as yet unknown, Kyoryo Tours have said in a statement.
One explanation is that North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the country is officially known.
North Korea mysteriously forbids tourists to visit until September – but no one knows why
“It is expected that at the end of this month the situation will be clear, applications will be unfrozen, and visas will be issued very quickly after that,” Kyoryo Tours said.
“This suggests to us that this is an issue with the general capacity of the country to receive visitors in September, and, as various high-level state delegations are expected to go to Pyongyang in September, that a higher power in the country is simply pressing pause on tourism until it is clear to them who is coming in such delegations and how many people.
“This seems the most likely and characteristic reason for this unusual act.”
In previous years, Pyongyang has celebrated the anniversary of the nation’s founding with military parades and mass games complete with thousands of people performing acrobatic choreography in unison, reported news agency AFP.
It is also speculated that North Korea could intend to show off some of its nuclear weapons, which earned it multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions, added AFP.
Kyoryo Tours has said that this sudden freeze on visas “is an unusual one but it is somewhat characteristic of how things go sometimes in the DPRK.”
North Korea mysteriously forbids tourists to visit until September
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advise against all but essential travel to North Korea, but for those determined to visit, the only way to enter the Hermit State is through a tour operator.
The FCO advises travellers to remain alert if visiting: “While daily life in the capital city Pyongyang may appear calm, the security situation in North Korea can change with little notice and with no advance warning of possible actions by the North Korean authorities.
“This poses significant risks to British visitors and residents. You should follow the political and security situation very closely and stay in touch with your host organisation or tour operator.”
Limited help will also be available to UK tourists should something go wrong during a trip to North Korea.
“The British Embassy Pyongyang can currently provide some consular assistance to British visitors to Pyongyang, but only limited assistance to those visiting parts of the country outside the capital,” said the FCO.
Pyongyang has previously celebrated the anniversary of the nation’s founding with military parades
The only way to enter the Hermit State is through a tour operator with a group
“This is due to restricted access. In the event of instability or a worsening of the security situation, the ability of the British Embassy to provide consular assistance could be significantly reduced.”
A North Korean defector has recently revealed the horror of life locked up in one of Kim Jong-un’s brutal labour camps, where Christian prisoners are kicked and beaten with sticks for believing in Jesus.
Some 70,000 Christians are incarcerated in concentration camps in North Korea with many coming to an untimely death in squalid conditions, Open Doors, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians, has revealed.
When Christian Hea Woo, whose name has been changed for her safety, was forced into a camp there was a sign that warned: “Do not try to escape, you shall be killed.”
Speaking about the way she was treated at the camp, Ms Woo told Open Doors: “The guards were merciless. They kicked me and beat me with sticks. Christians are sometimes killed or locked up for the rest of their lives in concentration camps.” And the threat of death always lurked, she added.