North Korea opened its new airport in Pyongyang Wednesday. The reclusive state likes to showcase its achievements, and this week’s grand opening was no exception as it showed off the new airport”s fancy duty free shops and chocolate fondue fountain.
The event was somewhat overshadowed, however, by reports that leader Kim Jong-un executed the airport”s architect last year because of “defects” in the building.
The unveiling Wednesday underscores an effort to attract more tourists and to spruce up the country ahead of the celebration of a major anniversary of the founding of its ruling Worker”s Party in October this year.
North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju officiated at the opening ceremony, which marks the completion of years of work at Pyongyang”s main Sunan airport.
But the event was overshadowed by the murkier side of life in North Korea, not least that Ma Won Chun, North Korea’s director of the Designing Department of the National Defence Commission and the airport”s architect, vanished last year and is believed to have fallen victim to one of Kim’s purges.
‘The Diplomat’ reported he was killed “for corrupt practices and a failure to follow orders”.
Ma’s disappearance coincided with the discovery of problems with the airport, when Kim was quoted as saying: “Defects were manifested in the last phase of the construction of the Terminal 2 because the designers failed to bear in mind the party’s idea of architectural beauty that is the life and soul and core in architecture to preserve the character and national identity.”
Kim seemed to have put that all behind him last week when North Korea’s propaganda machine released images of him touring the new facility with his wife Ri Sol-ju touring the new facility. They look like they’re having a grand old time, apparently sporting US$600 Movado watches.
Just a handful of international flights come and go from Pyongyang every week, although since last year the frequency has increased.
Only two airlines have scheduled flights to Pyongyang — North Korea”s flag carrier, Air Koryo, and Air China.
Additional reporting from Associated Press