North Korea has imposed a travel ban on foreigners willing to participate in the annual Pyongyang marathon because of concerns over the spread of the Ebola virus, travel agencies say.
In October 2014, North Korea halted all non-essential travel into the communist country because of Ebola fears
The country began enforcing strict travel restrictions on incoming tourists including a 21-day quarantine.
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 April 12.
“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”, Koryo Tours said on Twitter, local media reported. China-based Young Pioneer Tours also confirmed the ban.
The Ebola outbreak, which began in West Africa, has killed more than 9,000 people.
Last year’s race, which also included a 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.
The country 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.
Much of the North Korean population lives in extreme poverty and the healthcare system would be ill-equipped to handle an Ebola epidemic.
North Korean state media has suggested the Ebola disease was created by the US military as a biological weapon.
North Korea launched travel website dprktoday.com on December 1.
The communist country currently has a ban on international tourists entering the country due to fears of the Ebola virus.
Dprktoday.com is a Korean-language site full of the bizarre imagery and hard-to-navigate portals. Different areas of the site highlight a variety of North Korea’s attractions, from a pyramid-themed water park to aspects of local culture.
Some of the choices are a bit more confusing, including pictures of rockets and a single dog.
The site is even more abnormal given that North Korea currently has a travel ban in place that would prevent tourists from entering the country anyway.
In October, authorities reportedly told tour companies they were barring international tourists from entry because of Ebola fears.
South Korea’s Yonhap News reported that the aim of the site is to “attract foreign tourists,” but since the page is exclusively in Korean, it’s unclear who exactly the target audience is.
Before the travel ban, North Korea had been on a push to encourage visitors, including building a massive ski resort over a period of just 10 months.
The website features a number of videos in addition to images and text which appears to be a beatific karaoke video featuring footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.