Travel agents specialising in North Korea are condemning plans by the US and South Korea governments to halt tourism into the reclusive state.
They intend to stem the flow of tourism dollars into North Korea on grounds that the money is funding weapons development.
“We are considering applying UN Security Council sanctions or sanctions by individual countries since [the travel companies] are funding North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes,” a South Korean government official told Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
Chinese travel agencies have already begun feeling the pressure with Seoul banning 52 companies who operate North Korean tours from handling visas to South Korea.
Agents have condemned the move, saying that tourism is a force for good and shouldn’t be dragged down by politicking.
Spokesperson for Explore North Korea, Sabrina Wong, said she was not aware of plans to target the travel industry but would “wait and see” what transpires.
Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, was similarly unaware of the proposal, but defended tour operators, saying they are the ones building bridges with the world’s most isolated nation.
“We have always held the position that tourism is one of the few ways in which we can push engagement with North Korea,” he told TTG Asia.
“This is a government that is very inward-looking and tourism is an outward-looking business, so it is a chance for North Koreans to see and even meet outsiders. I just feel that it’s amazingly inept for them to be considering targeting tourism when that is the only thing that has worked in opening up the country.”