North Korea has built a big new terminal at Pyongyang International Airport, and state media has circulated photos showing dictator Kim Jong Un beaming widely as he inspects it.
A 30-photo slide show published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency has raised international eyebrows. It shows Kim touring the terminal in the country’s capital with his wife Ri Sol Ju and a group of senior military figures, all looking delighted, beaming and laughing.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju test an airbridge at the new terminal at Pyongyang International Airport.
Amenities in the new facility appear to include a jewellery shop, a pharmacy and a coffee bar.
Many questions have been asked – like quite what purpose the new terminal will serve. North Korea, a reclusive country, is not known as a tourist destination. It’s better known for its attempts to conduct nuclear tests, its frequent missile test firings and its executions of those who fall from favour.
Very few airlines fly to Pyongyang: namely North Korea’s state-run Air Koryo and Air China.
Britain’s Independent newspaper noted that “North Korea is currently in the midst of its worst drought in 100 years.
“From 1994-1998 hundreds of thousands of people died from famine in the country and now the United Nations has warned of a new sharp rise in malnutrition as a result of the water shortages.
“But rather than spending money on food for its people, or spending time protecting agriculture, North Korea is building a shiny new airport terminal”, the paper said.
The new facility also boasts a new control tower, due to open 1 July 2015.
The Los Angeles Times speculates that the new terminal may be part of efforts by Kim to increase the country’s tourist appeal and earn foreign currency.
The paper notes that Kim has opened other tourist attractions, including a ski resort, and invited foreign celebrities such as Dennis Rodman to the country.
North Korea is officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Some cynics say that any country with “Democratic” in its title usually isn’t.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to the DPRK, “due to restrictions placed on foreigners and very different laws and regulations applying to behaviour, as well as intermittent DPRK threats against international interests.
“This may mean deferring non-essential travel or choosing a less risky destination. If you decide to travel, you should stay as short a time as possible, eliminate unnecessary activities, and review your security arrangements.
“Travel by Australians to the DPRK is uncommon and foreign visitors have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention,” DFAT warns.
“Foreigners may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered crimes in Australia, including unsanctioned religious and political activities, unauthorised travel, or unwarranted interaction with local nationals.”
At least they will get to pass through a handsome new airport terminal.
Written by Peter Needham