Tightening the screws even further on travel to their already isolated country, North Korean authorities have barred foreigners from one of the year's most popular tourist events—the annual Pyongyang marathon—because of ongoing concerns over the spread of the Ebola virus, travel agencies say. While no cases of Ebola have been reported anywhere near North Korea, the country shut its doors on foreign tourists in October with some of the strictest Ebola regulations in the world. North Korean media have suggested Ebola was created by the US military as a biological weapon.
Nick Bonner, co-founder of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, says he doesn't think the decision reflects any deeper problems in the North's secretive and often enigmatic government, though the news comes amid reports that leader Kim Jong Un has called for increased combat readiness and described tensions on the peninsula as graver than ever before. Bonner says more than 400 foreign runners had signed up with his agency alone for the April 12 event. He says he was informed by officials today that the race—billed as one of the most exotic marathon locales on Earth—would be open only to local runners. (North Korea recently rolled out 310 new slogans.)