North Korea’s slick and stylish new terminal at Pyongyang International Airport is now open for flights – and North Korean state media has disclosed the project was redesigned halfway through construction, by Kim Jong Un himself.
Plans were changed and the building redone at his Kim’s whim.
“The terminal was built in a modern way from the gatepost to the airport to departure lounge, entry formalities hall, service halls, etc,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Late in 2014, while the terminal was half built, Kim found he didn’t like the look of it. He ordered workers to demolish and rebuild portions of the new terminal.
He seems happy with the new structure, as state media circulated photos showing him beaming widely as he inspected it with his wife Ri Sol Ju and senior military figures, all looking rapturously pleased.
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 the purpose of the new terminal will be. North Korea, a reclusive country, is not known as a tourist destination. It’s better know for its attempts to conduct nuclear tests and frequent missile test firings.
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 temrinal 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 observers say that any country with “Democratic” in its title usually isn’t.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises visitors 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