Pyongyang's new 'world-class' airport

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju (above) seen touring the facilities last month at Pyongyang's new airport (right).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju seen touring the facilities last month at Pyongyang's new airport (above).PHOTOS: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju (above) seen touring the facilities last month at Pyongyang's new airport (right).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju (above) seen touring the facilities last month at Pyongyang's new airport.PHOTOS: REUTERS

The new terminal at Pyongyang International Airport, which opened on Wednesday, has been billed by state media as a showcase project putting North Korea's air transport on a world level.

The modern, glass- fronted building is reportedly six times larger than the old terminal, but passenger numbers are expected to remain low. Here are 10 things to know about the new terminal:

FACILITIES

The terminal - the cost of which is not known - has at least 12 check-in counters, a clothing shop, a gift shop, a duty-free store and several restaurants, going by state media photographs.

There is also a coffee bar with an espresso machine and a newsstand stocked with what look like magazines and North Korean flags.

In one photograph, Mars chocolate bars, Werther's Originals caramel-flavoured candy and bottled beers are on display in one shop.

FEW FLIGHTS

It is expected to be used for the country's few international scheduled flights to Pyongyang.

In recent years, the regular international connections from Pyongyang have been Beijing and Shenyang in China, along with Vladivostok in Russia. The country does not publish traveller numbers, but travel agencies estimate that about 6,000 Westerners visit the country every year.

TWO AIRLINES

Only North Korea's flag carrier Air Koryo and Air China have scheduled flights to the airport. VISITORS

The new terminal is also expected to receive visitors visiting North Korea's Mount Paektu, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. The 2,750m-high volcanic mountain, lying on the border with China, is considered sacred in Korean folklore and plays a central role in the Kim family propaganda.

BUILT ON KIM'S ORDERS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the construction of the new terminal in July 2012 because the terminal then was considered too small and shabby.

He reportedly visited the construction site several times and deployed troops for its construction.

Last November, he was said to have stopped work on the terminal after inspecting the site and reproaching workers for "defects". Parts of some facilities had to be torn down and rebuilt.

DESIGNER HAS DISAPPEARED

The terminal's main designer Ma Won Chun was said to be one of six high-level officials who disappeared last year in a government purge carried out by Mr Kim.

'PATRIOTIC' LABOUR

The builders constructed the terminal by hand or with simple tools, with patriotic music blaring from loudspeakers, the Associated Press reported.

CLOSE SCRUTINY

Mr Kim allegedly paid special attention to even the airport logo, signboards and posters, demanding "artistry, visual quality and cultural level" in their designs.

ROAD AND RAIL

Mr Kim has reportedly called for the construction of a high-speed railway and a motorway linking Pyongyang and the airport, some 24km north-west of the capital.

RUSH JOB

The terminal is the latest of the country's "speed campaigns" - mass mobilisations of labour brigades aimed at finishing top-priority projects like ski resorts and water parks in record time.

The projects are aimed at drawing more tourists and sprucing up the country ahead of a major anniversary of the founding of its ruling party in October.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2015, with the headline 'Pyongyang's new 'world-class' airport'. Print Edition | Subscribe