North Korea officially reopened its borders on Tuesday to foreign tourists and businessmen nearly five months after shutting them over fear of the deadly Ebola virus, tour agencies and a diplomatic source told Reuters.
"We've had it confirmed officially that the border is now open," said Troy Collings, manager of the China-based Young Pioneer Tours, which takes Western tourists into North Korea.
North Korea is one of the world's most isolated countries and is thousands of miles from the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It has reported no cases of the virus, which has killed more than 9,000 people.
However, its borders have been closed to foreign tourists since last October for fear the virus might spread and it imposes a strict 21-day quarantine for foreign aid workers and diplomats, who have been told to stay in embassy compounds.
A diplomatic source in Pyongyang confirmed the border had been reopened but said it was unclear if the measures had been completely revoked because quarantine would remain in place for several African countries.
Collings said his company had been told trade would resume under normal conditions from Tuesday.
"Quarantines will be lifted for most NGO workers and diplomats resident in the country and tours will be allowed to resume in the next couple of days," said Collings.
Beijing-based travel company Koryo Tours said it had been asked by its North Korean partners to apply for tours and was expecting to take its first group of the year on March 14.