The tour company that took Otto Warmbier to North Korea says it's still safe to travel there but won't take Americans

An unidentified mobile rocket launcher is displayed during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. Photo: Ed Jones/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Young Pioneer Tours is a travel company based in China that specialises in taking groups of people on affordable tours of North Korea.

It is the company that took Otto Warmbier to the state-controlled country, where he was ­accused of trying to steal a propaganda poster and was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year. He died on June 19, after falling into a coma while ­detained.

Australian Benjamin Johnson, a 24–year-old former tax consultant for Ernst & Young who now works for the tour company, was on the same tour as Warmbier.

Johnson told The Australian he was devastated to hear about Warmbier’s death, but says it’s still safe to travel to North Korea — if you’re not American.

“We can’t accept any chance that it may happen again to another American citizen,” Johnson said. “However, for other citizens we do not see the same risks and so we will continue to take them.”

The company’s website reiterates the point saying: “Recent cases of severe unwarranted consequences for American detainees in North Korea means we now consider the risk to Americans visiting North Korea to be too high and as such we can no longer accept Americans travelling on US passports for tours to North Korea.”

The company also says: “Despite what you may hear, for most nationalities, North Korea is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit provided you follow the laws as provided by our documentation and pre-tour briefings.”

The Australian has more.

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