Inside North Korea's shiny new international airport ... but where are all the passengers?
North Korea has opened its new airport terminal in the capital, hailing it as a showcase of leader Kim Jong-Un’s “unremitting efforts” to put the country’s air transport on a world level.
Terminal 2 of Pyongyang International Airport, which is reserved for international civilian flights, opened for service yesterday, state media said.
“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.
Prime Minister Pak Pong-Ju said at the opening ceremony that it was “the crystal of the noble loyalty, ardent patriotic will and unremitting efforts of Marshal Kim Jong-Un who has been keen to put the aerial transport of the country on a world level true to the intention of leader Kim Jong-Il”, according to KCNA.
Kim Jong-Un took power in 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il, who was afraid of flying and travelled everywhere by train.
But his son, who studied in Switzerland as a teenager, has shown a keen interest in aviation, flying a North Korean-made light plane himself in March, according to a video released by the North.
Kim ordered construction of the new facility in July 2012 because the existing terminal was considered too small and shabby compared with foreign rivals.
He has also issued directives to improve the inflight services and attendants’ uniforms of Koryo Air after the country’s sole civilian airline came under international mockery.
The new terminal had to be partly demolished and rebuilt on Kim’s order after he said the layout looked like “a copy” of a foreign facility.
But the terminal risks being virtually empty as Pyongyang has just a trickle of scheduled foreign flights, mostly from Beijing and Moscow.
The new terminal is six times larger than the old one, but it remains unclear how North Korea will be able to generate the passenger numbers that would justify its construction.
The young leader has a penchant for showpiece constructions.
Under his direction, a ski resort, a water park and an equestrian course have been built, but they are beyond the reach of the average citizen of the impoverished Stalinist state.