Ebola Fears Prompt North Korea to Ban Tourists

North Korea closed its borders in 2003 during SARS scare.

October 23, 2014, 8:41 AM

SEOUL, South Korea — -- North Korea is closing its borders to all foreign tourists due to fears of the Ebola virus, according to tour agencies who were informed today by their representatives in Pyongyang.

“Obviously I’m not happy with it. We still have four tours left for the year including one group going in next week,” said Gareth Johnson, founder and managing director of Young Pioneers Tours based in Xian, China. “We're just hoping that this is a storm in a tea cup.”

The ban is temporary and the official did not specify when it would be lifted, he said.

Koryo Tours based in Beijing wrote on its Facebook page: “We have just been informed by our partners in North Korea that tomorrow North Korea will stop accepting international tourists due to the threat of the Ebola virus, effectively closing its borders.”

North Korea's official media reported today that no cases of Ebola have been detected in the country.

The last time North Korea banned tourists was in 2003 because of the SARS virus outbreak in Asia. It took up to four months before normal operations resumed.

“Personally, I think they are afraid of rumors of Ebola in Guangzhou,” said Johnson, referring to the southern Chinese city with a large population of African expats especially from Nigeria and West African countries. “Hopefully, they (North Korean authorities) realize that it was a false alarm.”

Approximately 6,000 Western tourists visit North Korea every year.

ABC News' Min-Jun Kim contributed to this report

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