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North Korea's 'landmark' airport terminal to open on July 1

Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 11:08
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North Korea's showcase new airport terminal, which had to be partly demolished and rebuilt at leader Kim Jong Un's whim, is to open on July 1, state media said Thursday.

[SEOUL] North Korea's showcase new airport terminal, which had to be partly demolished and rebuilt at leader Kim Jong Un's whim, is to open on July 1, state media said Thursday.

Kim called for a grand opening of the new Terminal 2 at Pyongyang International Airport on a tour accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju and sister Kim Yo Jong as well as senior party officials, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

He also enjoyed a bird's eye view of the terminal, which KCNA described as a "landmark of the Songun (military-first) era", from his plane.

But the facility, reserved for international civilian flights, risks being virtually empty after it opens as Pyongyang has just a trickle of scheduled foreign flights.

On his tour, Kim told workers and officials he was "very satisfied to see the terminal well built in harmony with modern aesthetic taste and national character", KCNA reported.

Kim also called for the construction of a high-speed railway and a motorway between Pyongyang and the airport, some 24km northwest of the capital, and the beautification of surrounding areas.

Kim gave "detailed" instructions on holding a "splendid ceremony for its inauguration on July 1" and the start of passenger services.

KCNA said Kim had visited the construction site several times, issuing instructions and deploying troops for its construction.

He was thought to have visited the terminal, the cost of which was not reported, on Wednesday.

Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute in Seoul said on Wednesday that in heavily-militarised North Korea, soldiers are widely used in civic construction projects.

Kim has mobilised twice as many as soldiers as his father Kim Jong-Il, the North's late leader, deploying some 200,000 soldiers - one out of every five active servicemen - to construction sites nationwide, including the airport terminal, resorts, public buildings and apartments.

But in November last year, Kim stopped work on the terminal after inspecting the site. He reproached workers for failing to carry out an earlier order from July that the project should reflect North Korea's "Juche" (self-reliance) philosophy and national identity.

Kim said there were "deviations in the interior layout including halls for check-in and departure", KCNA reported last November. Parts of these facilities had to be rebuilt.

North Korean architecture is characterised by its monumental but drab socialist style incorporating propaganda symbols of the communist state.

When the new terminal opens, the airport's existing terminal is expected to be used only for the country's few domestic routes.

Kim ordered construction of the new terminal in July 2012 because the existing terminal was considered too small and shabby compared with foreign rivals.

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.

It opens as the isolated Stalinist state remains one of the world's least-visited countries with few scheduled flights to Pyongyang, mostly from Beijing and Moscow.

AFP