North Korea Bans Foreign Runners from Participating in Marathon Over Ebola Concerns

Caroline Coppes, Contributor

On the 22nd of February, North Korea announced that they are banning all foreign runners from participating in the annual Mangyongdae Marathon held in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, due to fears of Ebola.

 “We are sorry to announce that our North Korean partners contacted us this morning with news that the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon has — as of today — been closed to amateur and professional foreign runners,” the Koryo Tours agency who help set up trips to North Korea for the marathon and other events announced on the 22nd.

 Last year, the first year international runners were allowed to participate, the event brought in about 200 runners and this year they were expecting about 500. With the North Korean economy not doing so well, they look to the limited amount foreigners coming to events like these to help bring in funds.

 Before North Korea banned foreigners, they closed their international borders in October of 2014 due to fear of Ebola. North Korea stated that the US created the disease as a biological weapon. They discontinued all visas for non-essentials from entering the country and had a 21-day quarantine set in place.

 This was not the first time that North Korea has closed their borders over health concerns. Back in 2003 with fears of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, North Korea closed their borders to foreigners.

 There has been no cases of Ebola in North Korea or any of Asia for that matter, but most of the North Korea’s population lives in extreme poverty and the healthcare system would not be able to handle an outbreak.

 Some people believe that North Korea is using Ebola as a fear for lives but as a political advantage. Back in December of 2014, the U.N. security council voted to increase pressure on North Korea’s leaders due to human rights abuse.

Photo by: David Guttenfelder