After promoting the Pyongyang Marathon to foreign runners (see, e.g., Pyongyang Marathon – North Korea Will Allow International Runners), which this year, is scheduled to take place in Pyongyang (the largest city in North Korea) on April 12th, North Korea just turned around and banned all foreign runners (both professional and non-professional) citing alleged Ebola concerns.
Here are excerpts from the article published by BBC World News/Asia North Korea bans foreigners from Pyongyang marathon over Ebola:
North Korean authorities have banned foreigners from participating in the annual Pyongyang marathon because of concerns over the spread of the Ebola virus, travel agencies say.
No Ebola cases have been reported in North Korea or anywhere near it.
The marathon, one of the year’s most popular events for tourists, takes place on 12 April.
“We are sorry to announce that we have been informed by our partners in North Korea that no foreign runners – amateur or professional – will be allowed to participate in this year’s Pyongyang Marathon,” Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based travel agency said on its website according to South Korea’s Yonhap new agency.
Foreigners are banned “due to the fear of the spread of Ebola”, the company said on Twitter, local media reported. China-based Young Pioneer Tours also confirmed the ban.
Last year’s race, which also included a 10km (6 mile) race and a half-marathon, was the first time the event was open to foreigners and an estimated 200 people from around the world took part.
This year, Koryo Tours alone was expecting to take 500 people to the marathon, its director Nick Bonner told Reuters news agency.
North Korea looks at tourism, especially from China, as a way of increasing foreign funds flowing into the country.
But it halted all visas for non-essential travel in October as a measure against Ebola.
It is not clear why North Korean authorities are particularly concerned Ebola could be brought into the country.
North Korean state media has suggested the disease was created by the US military as a biological weapon.
(see also, this article in Reuters).
According to this Bloomberg article “North Korea closed its border to international tourists in October due to Ebola concerns. It has also placed nationals returning from abroad in rigorous quarantine”.
I find this entire scenario bizarre (especially since North Korea has never had a case of Ebola), but then again, why should we be surprised at anything North Korea does?
No mention was made in the articles whether foreign runners who registered for the Marathon would be refunded their fees by the marathon itself or by tour groups.
HT: to Piotr.