Final American tourists in North Korea fast-track travels before Friday's ban starts

Posted at 10:01 AM, Aug 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 10:01:56-04

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- As the American travel ban to North Korea starts Friday, some daring globetrotters are fast-tracking their travels to the reclusive Asian country to get in under the wire.

"With the upcoming travel ban, I felt like it was now or never," Virginia resident Nicholas Burkhead told CNN, lamenting that he hadn't had enough time to learn the language before the ban goes into effect.

The State Department announced the ban in July following the death of Wyoming native and University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, 22. He was incarcerated for 15 months in North Korea after being accused of stealing a propaganda banner from a hotel in early 2016.

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Despite recent tension between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, CNN reports eight American tourists were on board a recent flight to the country.

"It's a pity for anyone curious to go, but especially for North Koreans who might want to know what American visitors are really like," said Simon Cockerell, who was on the flight.

"At the end of the day, everybody is exactly the same," said Ali Karim of Washington, D.C. He's a doctor who quit his job to travel the world and moved his journey to North Korea by several months to beat the ban.