00:00
1USD = AMD
1EUR = AMD
1RUB = AMD
Business Relations Council Announcement Armenia PM congratulates Greece counterpart on 200th anniversary of liberation from Ottoman Turkey FRV reaches financial close with IFC, EBRD, and Ameriabank for the largest Utility Scale Solar Power Plant in ArmeniaTen new cases of coronavirus reported in Artsakh Plane crashes in west of England Nagorno-Karabakh: The mystery of the missing church Russian becomes official language in Karabakh Armenia opposition Homeland Salvation Movement to hold nationwide rally in YerevanSerzh Sargsyan and members of Republican Party of Armenia visit ex-PM Andranik Margaryan's tomb (PHOTOS) Dollar rises in Armenia

Gung-ho culture at tour agency Warmbier used on N.Korea trip

BEIJING (AP) — Beer-soaked "booze cruises" down North Korea's Taedong River. Scuba diving trips off the country's eastern coast. Saint Patrick's Day pub crawls in Pyongyang featuring drinking games with cheery locals.

Since 2008, the Young Pioneer Tours agency built up a business attracting young travelers with a competitively priced catalog of exotic-sounding, hard-partying adventures in one of the world's most isolated countries.

But the death last week of 22-year-old American student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested during a Young Pioneer tour to North Korea in late 2015 and fell into a coma in prison, has renewed questions about whether the company was adequately prepared for its trips into the hard-line communist state.

Although many details of Warmbier's fateful trip remain unknown, interviews with past Young Pioneer customers or those who have crossed paths with the tour operator describe a company with occasional lapses in organization, a gung-ho drinking culture and a cavalier attitude that has long raised red flags among industry peers and North Korea watchers.

Founded in 2008 by Briton Gareth Johnson in the central Chinese city of Xi'an, Young Pioneer's fun and casual style was seen precisely as its calling card, a counterpoint to North Korea's reputation as an inaccessible, draconian hermit kingdom. "Budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from," its website touts, while describing North Korea as one of the safest places on Earth.

But in travel circles in Beijing, the staging point for trips into North Korea, Young Pioneer Tours, also known as YPT, has been associated with a string of cautionary tales, including of the tourist who performed a handstand outside the most politically sensitive mausoleum in Pyongyang where two generations of the Kim family are buried, resulting in a North Korean guide losing her job. During another tour, Johnson attempted to step off a moving train after drinking and broke his ankle, leading to an unexpected stay at a Pyongyang hospital.

Adam Pitt, a 33-year old British expatriate who formerly lived in Beijing and went on a 2013 trip, described to the AP a party atmosphere led by Johnson, who was often heavily inebriated and "almost unable to stand and barely understandable when he did speak" at a tense border crossing where he needed to hand wads of cash to officials as bribes.

While it's expected for tourists to relax and enjoy a few drinks while traveling, tour operators and tourists say YPT has long stood out for its party-hearty tour groups. In respective interviews with Fairfax Media and the Independent newspaper, Nick Calder, a New Zealander, and Darragh O Tuathail, an Irish tourist, both recalled the YPT group Warmbier traveled with carousing until early morning. O Tuathail declined to discuss his recollections of the trip with the AP, saying he wanted to let Warmbier's family grieve in peace.

In an emotional news conference last week, Fred Warmbier, Otto's father, lashed out at tour agencies that "advertise slick ads on the internet proclaiming, 'No American ever gets detained on our tours' and 'This is a safe place to go.'"

Earlier this week, YPT issued a statement saying it would no longer accept American customers because "the assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high."

Բաժանորդագրվեք մեր YouTube ալիքին
Լրահոս
20 Apr
Interview with Philip Lynch Business Relations Council Announcement Armenia citizens' initiative forming "Council for Business Relations" (PHOTOS, VIDEO) Armenian citizens' initiative: We'll be ready to form a coalitional bloc and go to elections Ameriabank Got Quality Excellence Award 2020 from Raiffeisen Bank InternationalHouthi forces launch missiles toward Saudi oil sites in Jizan North Korea claims 'new tactical guided' missiles launched Bill Gates on the pandemic and the climate catastrophe. Interview on TVN24 GO (Video) What Joe Biden said in his first presidential press conference Lamborghini Urus sets high-speed record on the ice of Lake Baikal (Photos) Minister: Armenia's economy has virtually recovered 2 Million iPhone Owners Set For Batterygate Payout The Best Nature Photos From The Tokyo International Foto Awards (Photos)Armenia PM congratulates Greece counterpart on 200th anniversary of liberation from Ottoman Turkey Then And Now: Couple Recreates 12 Wedding Photos After 50 Years Of Being Married (Photos) Netanyahu's party winning Israeli elections FRV reaches financial close with IFC, EBRD, and Ameriabank for the largest Utility Scale Solar Power Plant in ArmeniaCouple buys California dream home, but seller refuses to move out in eviction moratorium loopholeNFT artwork by humanoid robot sells at auction for nearly $700,000: Reuters (Video) Watch the impressive Athens military parade commemorating Greek Independence Day: Greekcitytimes (Photos) “May we celebrate our next Bayram in Zangezur.”: Azerbaijani politicianTen new cases of coronavirus reported in Artsakh Plane crashes in west of England Armenian doctor joins leadership of Turkey ruling party Armenia legislature approves changes to some laws Armenia official: Support program for Karabakh residents being funded since Wednesday Nagorno-Karabakh: The mystery of the missing church Russian becomes official language in Karabakh Armenia opposition Homeland Salvation Movement to hold nationwide rally in YerevanSerzh Sargsyan and members of Republican Party of Armenia visit ex-PM Andranik Margaryan's tomb (PHOTOS) Dollar rises in ArmeniaAmeriabank Named Best Bank in Armenia 2021 by Global FinanceRob Kardashian tries out sister Kim's infamous bleach blonde hair in hilarious photoshopped image as he wishes himself a happy 34th birthday. DailyMail (Photos)Interview with Kakha Kiknavelidze (video) Global Finance Names Ameriabank Best Investment Bank of the Year in ArmeniaThe Blessing and the handover of the Crosses of Ashot II the Iron under the sponsorship of Tovmasyan Foundation Artak Tovmasyan calls on the factions to start an impeachment process"I am in debt but to my homeland." Artak Tovmasyan. "Past"Artak Tovmasyan and his team of IT specialists introduced necessary steps for the further development of ArmeniaFrom the old players to a new "surprise". The political field is getting positioned ․ "Past"Tovmasyan Foundation President: My political team is working on development programs Peace through the eyes of a soldier: Tovmasyan Charity Foundation (video)“AR” TV company has been neither sold, nor donated to anyoneArmenia National Assembly has new MPS. Korea president calls on Biden administration to learn from Trump's failure with N. KoreaBiden administration to have another American Armenian officialArtsakh emergency service: One of 3 fallen soldiers found Sunday is identifiedErdogan tries to break out of isolation, forging relations with EURussia MOD: Length of safe public roads is increasing in Nagorno-KarabakhArmenia President to soon be discharged from hospital
Ամենադիտված