North Korean authorities have announced that they will now allow foreign amateur runners to take part in the 2015 Pyongyang marathon, a statement released by the New York based Uri Tours said on Wednesday.
The announcement is a surprise reversal of a previous decision, made on February 23, to cancel the event for foreign participants due to strict anti-Ebloa measures. But while amateur runners will now be allowed to take part in the marathon, the participation of professional runners has not yet been confirmed.
“We have just been informed that the Mangyongdae Prize Marathon Committee have decided to re-open the doors to foreign amateur runners for the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon held on April 12, 2015,” an update on the Uri Tours website said.
“We were not informed as to the reason why the decision was reversed,”Andrea Lee, CEO of Uri Tours, told NK News by email on Wednesday.
“My understanding is that the marathon committee had preemptively cancelled foreign professional participation in the race due to the fact that there was no clear indication as to when the Ebola ban would be lifted and that professional runners need lead time before committing to a race. These are just speculations.”
British based Juche Travel Services also confirmed that North Korea’s tourism bureau, the Korean International Travel Company (KITC) had also informed them of the news on Wednesday morning, but again provided no reason for the reversal.
The decision comes in the week North Korean authorities announced an abrupt end to anti-Ebola quarantine measures, which had been implemented since October 24, 2014.
The measures, which were put in place to prevent the spread of the disease to the country, had effectively closed the North Korean border and led to the temporary suspension of the tourism industry.
The decision to reopen the border and allow foreign participation in the marathon is a welcome one for tour operators, who had suffered financially during the border closure and who were lamenting the cancellation of one of the industry’s marquee events.
“We’re happy that they’ve opened the race again, because it’s really a great event and the best way to see Pyongyang,” Lee said.
Tour companies continued to advertise the event while the Ebola measures were in place and were forced to cancel bookings made prior to February 23.
Previous estimates provided to NK News speculated that the number of foreign participants could reach as many as 1,000, however given the event will be held in just over a month, possibly without the participation of professional runners, it remains to be seen if the same numbers will be reached.
Featured Image: Uri Tours
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