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North Korea reopens borders to tourists following Ebola crackdown

North Korea reopens borders to tourists following Ebola crackdown


Isolated country ends travel ban, but quarantine measures remain in place for some

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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

North Korea today reopened its borders to foreign tourists, more than four months after closing them amid concerns over the spread of Ebola. As Reuters reports, travel agencies in the region said the border was officially reopened as of Monday, though a diplomatic source in Pyongyang tells the news agency that strict quarantine measures will remain in place for travelers from some African countries.

Quarantine remains in place for some west African travelers

North Korea closed its borders to foreign tourists on October 24th, despite the fact that the hermit kingdom is thousands of miles from West Africa, where an Ebola outbreak has killed more than 9,000 people since first being reported in March 2014. The regime also subjected those returning from overseas — including diplomats and high-level officials — to a 21-day quarantine and strict regular checkups. In a letter to diplomats and aid workers, obtained by The Washington Post, North Korean authorities said the quarantine would remain in place for travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and five other West African countries.

"Those coming from other countries can work as usual, receiving medical observation through frequent contact with Pyongyang Friendship Hospital for 21 days," the note reads. As of Tuesday morning, North Korea's official press agency had yet to announce any change to its policy.

The ban took many by surprise when it was implemented last year, considering the recent efforts North Korea has made to boost its tourism industry. It opened a luxury ski resort in 2013, and a recent policy aims to bring in 1 million tourists (albeit without a specific timetable). Tourism is seen as a critical source of foreign currency for the cash-strapped country.