Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

Construction of new Wonsan Airport continued through winter

Friday, May 1st, 2015

New Google Earth imagery shows continued development of the new civilian airport in Wonsan. The airport is presumably intended to support the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

2015-3-26 (Google Earth)


2015-2-10 (Google Earth)


2014-12-25 (Google Earth)



Air Koryo timetable

Monday, November 17th, 2014

From October 28, 2014-March 28, 2015:



Increase in DPRK-Vladivostok air travel in 2014

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Air passenger traffic between the North Korean capital and the neighboring Russian port city of Vladivostok surged more than 20 percent in the first half of 2014 from a year earlier, a news report said Wednesday, amid signs of closer ties between the two nations.

The number of passengers between Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang and Vladivostok International Airport in the Russian Far East shot up 22 percent on-year during the January-June period, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

It cited data from the Vladivostok airport, which did not reveal the exact number of passengers and the reason for the jump.

However, RFA attributed the surge to increased bilateral exchanges and cooperation in economic, tourism and other fields.

The sharp increase compares with a 1.7 percent drop in the number of users of Vladivostok International Airport during the six-month period, which totaled 838,000, it said.

North Korea’s Air Koryo operates the Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, on the Pyongyang-Vladivostok route.

Read the whole story here:
Pyongyang-Vladivostok passengers up 22 pct in H1: report


DPRK develops tourism as one of its “major industries”

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

According to KCNA (2013-8-28):

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is directing big efforts to developing tourism as one of major industries.

In this regard, KCNA met Jo Song Gyu, director of the International Travel Company of the DPRK.
Jo said:

Consistent is the policy of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the DPRK government to develop tourism in the country.

Abundant in tourism resources, the country has a bright future to develop tourism.

Regular air route will be opened between Pyongyang, Lake Samji and Wonsan for local and foreign tourists.

The country also plans to open air routes between Pyongyang and Chinese cities like Shanghai and Yanji.
Air services will also be available for people in Southeast Asia and Europe to come to DPRK for sightseeing.

Wonsan and Mts. Paektu and Chilbo areas are likely to be linked with other countries and regions by air services.

Economic development zones to be built in each province will serve as tourism destinations.

Hotels in Pyongyang City are being renovated at the world’s level.

A number of fitness centers, service complexes and souvenir and duty-free shops will be built for tourists.

The government will allow foreigners to launch independent business or joint venture in the country to invest in tourist resorts and economic development zones and construct and manage hotels, shops and other tourist facilities.

It will render preferential treatment to foreign businesses which come to the DPRK before others so that they can begin making profits as early as possible.

It is also inviting foreign tourist experts for development of tourist resorts and operation of hotels, restaurants, etc.

Read the full story here:
DPRK to Develop Tourism as One of Major Industries


DPRK builds new airfield in Kumgang County

Monday, December 10th, 2012

UPDATE: Last week I reported this story in Radio Free Asia.

ORIGINAL POST: In The Armed Forces of North Korea Joseph Bermudez gives a thorough accounting of most of the DPRK’s airfields, airports, highway strips, and air force bases.  Since the book was published in 2001, however, it is slightly out of date. This week I found a new North Korean runway in Kumgang County which appears to have been built between 2007-5-21 and 2012-9-22 to replace a disused runway five miles to the south.

Pictured above (Google Earth): I have outlined Kumgang County and show the positions of the old and new runways.

The former runway strip (documented in The Armed Forces of North Korea) is located just a mile north of the town of Kumgang. It appears to have fallen into disuse:


The nearby Kumgang-chon River has eroded a southern portion of the runway. It also appears a small drainage canal has been dug across a central section of the unpaved runway.

The new Kumgang Airfield is more sophisticated:


To begin with, the runway (appx 1km x 70m) is paved.

I was curious as to whether this runway is intended to serve primarily for civilian or military purposes. Evidence in favor of civilian use: The runway is close to Inner-Kumgang. Tourists could conceivably fly to this airport and drive appx 20 km (by road) to the Inner Kumgang Rest House. Tourists could also drive 35km to the Kumgang resort. Additionally, there is already a large North Korean air force base just 20km due north of the new runway in Thongchon County. I am not sure if an Air Koryo IL-62M can take off/land on this new runway, but certainly any of the commuter prop planes that carry tourists on domestic flights should not  find it too difficult.

Evidence for military use: As of September, there is yet to be built any infrastructure that would serve as a “civilian” airport terminal or air traffic control tower (I use the word “civilian”, but the KPA Air Force controls all of the DPRK’s airspace).  These types of infrastructure can be seen at other North Korean “civilian” airports in Pyongyang, Hamhung, and Samjiyon.  It could be that construction is still ongoing. Additionally, the airport is currently protected by a small number of hardened artillery positions (HARTs) located next to the runway. Artillery, however, can be seen at other “civilian” airports in the DPRK as well.    Just south of the HARTs we can also see what appears to be some tunneling or excavation work being carried out in the hillside.  The purpose of this work remains unclear:


Friday Fun: DPRK cards, inside Air Koryo, images, and more

Friday, December 7th, 2012

NK News gets creative: The innovative and informative is selling goodies this holiday season to fund its operations (I wish I had thought of that).  When I saw these playing cards, I laughed out loud:

I think I need these. You can order them here.

Inside Air Koryo: Martyn Williams notified me of this web page put up by tourists that took an aviation tour in the DPRK. Some incredible photos to be seen.  Here is just one:

The photo set also includes interior pictures of the “famous” Ilyushin-14 given to Kim Il-sung. UPDATE: The source claims that Stalin gave the plane to Kim Il-sung in 1955, however, as a reader points out, Stalin died in 1953.

Here is a flickr set put up by another member of the group.

Mobile phones: A few days ago, NK News posted a link to these photos taken by Russian tourists to the DPRK. Among the lot was this great photo of North Koreans filming/photographing fireworks in Pyongyang with their mobile phones:

Rodong Sinmun photoshop: Perhaps it is unfair to hold Rodong Sinmun to the highest standards of professional journalism, but if you are going to photo-shop a picture, at least put some effort into it:

Click picture for larger version.

I am unsure why Rodong Sinmun felt compelled to badly photoshop what would otherwise have been a lovely photo.  Is it really so hard to get a photo of a girl playing a violin in front of her (very loyal) family?

Rodong Sinmun has inspired me to coin a  new word: Frankenphoto. Here is a working definition: When all of the compositional elements of a single photo were originally copied from separate pieces and painfully (badly) rendered together into a new image that at times seems to violate the laws of nature.

Just weird [revised]: Below is a very strange act that appeared on North Korean television. I did not understand it at all. After posting it, however, a reader informs me that is is a knock off of an act that appeared on  Soviet Television.  The original Latvian actor was named Arkady Raikin (Аркадий Райкин). See video of Raikin here. Wikipedia page here.

In this North Korean version, skip to the 3:26 mark.  New characters emerge at 5:26, 7:08, 8:17, 10:06.



122 ROK ships affected by GPS jamming

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

UPDATE 4 (2012-5-31): Three arrested in South Korea over GPS jamming. According to the Choson Ilbo:

Spies in South Korea were involved in North Korea’s recent jamming of GPS signals, police said Wednesday. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said it booked or arrested three men on espionage charges of collecting confidential military information to help the North.

They include a businessman identified only by his surname Lee who was formerly a prisoner of war from North Korea, a Korean-New Zealander identified as Kim, and another man who formerly worked for a defense contractor.

Export of electronic jamming devices to some countries including the North is banned.

Lee and Kim, who are engaged in trade activities in Nampo, North Korea and New Zealand, are suspected of attempting to hand over GPS jamming devices and radar systems to Pyongyang at the direction of a North Korean agent.

Police say they have footage of their meeting with the agent and a statement from Kim saying he received an order from the North.

Read previous posts on this topic below:



DPRK’s Air Koryo to open Pyongyang, Harbin charter flight

Friday, February 24th, 2012

According to Xinhua:

Air Koryo of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will launch a charter flight route between Pyongyang and the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin on April 27, local Chinese airport authorities said Friday.

The airline will offer a round-trip flight between the cities every Monday and Friday, a spokesman with the Heilongjiang Provincial Airport Group Management Co. Ltd. said.

The new service will meet the travel demands of nationals from both countries, the spokesman said.

Harbin, known as China’s “Ice City,” is the capital of Heilongjiang Province, which borders Russia.

Read the full story here:
DPRK’s Air Koryo to open Pyongyang, Harbin charter flight


China does [not?] commit to new infrastructure investment in Rason

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

UPDATE 2 (2012-4-12): North Korea and China attracting investors for Rajin Port development (IFES):

China is currently actively recruiting investors to build additional wharfs in Rajin Port.

China’s Dandong City Industrial and Information Association (丹东市信息协会) announced that it is seeking investments for the construction of tanker wharf under 10,000 ton and affiliated facilities. This organization has received 45 year usage rights from the Rason City People’s Committee and stated that it needed 330 million CNY (52 million USD) to cover the construction cost. According to the association, the investment is attractive because of its geographic location, reduced transit time and costs, and tax-free benefits, for which a special permit was obtained from the North Korean authorities granting trade goods coming from Jilin Province at the Hunchun Port to be allowed entry tax-free. In addition, cargo will be permitted to be sent from Rajin Port to other ports in China.

Meanwhile, North Korea is also planning to build a new port in the Rajin-Sonbong area with a state-of-the-art container distribution capacity. According to the “Rajin New Port Development Plan,” Rajin port development will undergo major transformation as an international hub port, similar to Busan Harbor, unlike the previous small-scale renovations of Piers 1, 2, and 3. This new port is expected to be built across from the current Rajin Port.

Rajin Port development was initially considered as a remodeling project to update the existing wharfs. In 2003, China began to implement construction of Piers 1, 2, and 3. However, the piers began to deteriorate and for the lack of railway and road infrastructure in the area, it delayed the transportation and distribution and could not perform its full function. As a solution, in 2008, North Korea transferred the usage right of Pier 1 to China and Pier 3 to Russia. At that time, Pier 1 was developed to primarily transport chemical fertilizers but it was recently updated as a transportation dock for coal. Russia, in addition to the port, also carried out a modernization project of the Rajin-Hassan railway system to improve the transport of containers.

The new port development plan as suggested by North Korea indicates Jian Group of China as the responsible party for developing the new port into a container port. However, considering that North Korea’s industry does not call for container ports, it is more likely that North Korea is expanding the port to make it a hub port to ship cargo to China, Russia, and Europe. Considering Rajin Port’s geographical advantage, it is likely that North Korea is striving to make it into an international hub port that connects the Pacific with Northeast Asia.

China’s recent advertisement of investment is also considered to be linked with the new port development in Rajin Port.

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-1): Accoridng to Stratfor, the Chinese have denied they plan to make this investment.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied allegations made in a Feb. 16 South Korean media report regarding its agreement with North Korea to jointly develop the Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a port area in northeast North Korea commonly referred to as the Rason Special Economic Zone.

According to the Yonhap news agency, Beijing agreed in late 2011 to invest about 19 billion yuan ($3 billion) into Rason, for which it would receive the lease of three piers for 50 years. Under the agreement, Beijing would also build an airfield, a thermal power plant and a 55-kilometer (34-mile) railway track connecting Rason to Tumen, China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that the specific details of the report are untrue and that China and North Korea had agreed only in principle to develop the zone.

China has long exerted its economic influence in North Korea and has an interest in the strategically important Rason Special Economic Zone. Chinese involvement in Rason dates back to the 1990s, though Beijing increased its involvement considerably in 2005 when it secured the rights to one of the port’s piers. Beijing has been particularly involved over the past few years. While the details of the deal remain unknown, it is clear that Beijing has arranged to help Pyongyang develop Rason, possibly by connecting the remote port to northwest China. Such a development would revitalize the zone — to the benefit of both countries.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-2-15): China has committed to infrastructure projects in Rason. According to Yonhap:

China has secured the rights to build three new piers in a special economic zone in North Korea’s northeast and use them for 50 years, sources said Wednesday.

China will also build an airfield and a thermal power plant in the special economic zone known as Rason, as well as a 55-kilometer railway track between China’s northeastern city of Tumen and Rason.

North Korea and China reached an agreement late last year to build infrastructure in Rason with Chinese investment of about US$3 billion, according to the sources in Seoul and Beijing.

The Daily NK offers some more data:

China has agreed to dig out dock 4 at Rasun to make it possible for 70,000 ton vessels to dock and to construct a runway long enough to accommodate passenger and cargo aircraft within the SEZ; the railroad is due to be complete by 2020, while the development of dock 5 and 6 will follow that of dock 4, Yonhap sources claim.

This agreement was reportedly signed quietly by North Korea’s Joint Ventures Committee and the Chinese government shortly before Kim Jong Il’s death.

The North Koreans have sought the construction of an airport and expansion of the port  for some time.

KITC published the image above in 1995 (Source here).  If you look carefully on the right side of the picture you will see the site of a proposed airport.

Above is a more recent map of Rason published by the DPRK. In the middle of the above map you can see a small airplane which represents the desired location of a future airfield. It is in the same location as shown on the KITC map.

Here is the approximate location on Google Earth (42.397884°, 130.592084°):

If you look at the left side of the KITC photo you can also see that there are many piers, however today there are only three.  I suspect that the new piers will be constructed south of the current piers and will look something like this:

The railway and power plant projects are intereting as well.  There is already a thermal power plant in Sonbong, so I expect that the Chinese are simply renovating it so that it generates more power or is simply more reliable (Google Earth:  42.327275°, 130.382585°):

At a presentation at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, DC, Andray Abrahamian reported that increased electricity supplies for the Rason Zone could come from China.

As for the Tumen (China) – Rason railway line…this already exists as well.  The DPRK’s Hambuk Line (함북선) runs from Chongjin to Namyang (border with Tumen) to Rason:

The Tumen to Rason leg of this railway line, however, is approximately 156km (according to Google Earth) and likely runs pretty slowly.  The proposed new Chinese-built Tumen-Rason line is intended to be just 1/3 the distance!

Additional Information:

1. The Russians built a railway line from their border to the Rajin Port. Learn more here.

2. The Chinese and Russians have already rented two of Rajin’s three ports.

Read the full stories here:
China secures right to use 3 piers to be built on N. Korean port for 50 years

China Reportedly Grabs 3 Docks and More
Daily NK


Air Koryo launches/cancels Kuwait service

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

UPDATE 3 (2011-11-15): NK News has more on the unofficial Air Koryo Facebook Page here.

UPDATE 2 (2011-11-12): The unofficial Air Koryo Facebook Page posted the following comment in response to a question about service to Kuwait (thanks to a reader for the pointer):

It is not canceled. It is restricted bookings just like Moscow services.

The comment is followed by this one:

Kwang-tae Kim: I am a reporter of South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. Can u elaborate on why bookings are restricted and when bookings will be resumed? Some people speculated that it could be North Korea’s attempt to prevent the news of popular uprisings in the Arab world from reaching North Korea. Do u have any comment? Thanks

UPDATE 1 (2011-11-12): According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s flag carrier has canceled an air route to Kuwait, Airline Route blog says, in what could be Pyongyang’s latest attempt to prevent the news of popular uprisings in the Arab world from reaching the isolated country.

The move came less than six months after Air Koryo started a weekly direct flight service between Pyongyang and Kuwait City, Airline Route said Monday on its Web site, citing the carrier’s planned winter operation.

In late May, Air Koryo announced the service on its Facebook page, adding that a large number of North Koreans work in the Middle East.

The North’s airline has not yet commented on the reported cancellation of the service on its Facebook page, which was last updated late in October.

Here is the source information for this story:

As per 07NOV11 GDS timetable display, the following is North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo’s planned Winter 2011/12 operation.

Pyongyang – Bangkok
JS153 FNJ1020 – 1420BKK T20 4
JS154 BKK1220 – 2000FNJ T20 4

Pyongyang – Beijing
JS151 FNJ0900 – 0955PEK T20 26
JS251 FNJ1030 – 1130PEK T20 4

JS152 PEK1255 – 1600FNJ T20 26
JS252 PEK1405 – 1710FNJ T20 4

Pyongyang – Kuala Lumpur
JS159 FNJ1340 – 2000KUL T20 14
JS160 KUL2300 – 0730+1FNJ T20 25

Pyongyang – Kuwait Service Cancelled

Pyongyang – Shenyang
JS155 FNJ1200 – 1210SHE T20 36
JS156 SHE1500 – 1710FNJ T20 36

Pyongyang – Vladivostok
JS271 FNJ0830 – 1220VVO T20 5
JS272 VVO1830 – 1820FNJ T20 5

On an similar note, according to the Air Koryo Facebook page (Oct 28):

Air Koryo 2012 European Charters:

We are glad to announce to our European Union fans that Air Koryo will indeed be operating a seasonal service to Germany with a service from Pyongyang’s Sunan to Berlin’s Schonefeld airport. The serivces will operate from April till May 2012 and will operate weekly. Service dates are currently listing as first departure of 12 April and final flight 3 May. All service will be operated by Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft.

More information including timetable and official route i.e. non-stop or one stop will be released soon.

The flight will operate via Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, the flights will operate on alternate dates to the weekly direct flight to Moscow. Note that the flight to Berlin will be a direct flight, and not non-stop. The service will be operated by the larger Tu-204-100E

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-1): According to an online aviation forum:

Air Koryo are opening a new route to Kuwait City, to operate once a week.

Outbound (Tue, day 2): JS 161 FNJ 1800 / KWI 0110+1
Return (Wed, day 3): JS 162 KWI 1400 / FNJ 0500+1
Aircraft: Tupolev Tu-204-300

From the schedule it is obvious that the aircraft parks for thirteen hours, enabling the crew to have an eight hour sleep before operating the machine back to Pyongyang.

The Tu-204-300 is the long haul, “SP” version of the 204, and the Air Koryo machine (they have just the one, plus a pair of regular -200s) is the only airframe of the type exported from Russia. It is also used on flights to Moscow, plus Beijing of course.

It is an interesting choice of route out of the hermit kingdom. The airline says, “We are glad to announce Air Koryo has started serving Kuwait City, the capital of the Arabic nation of Kuwait, with a weekly Tupolev Tu-204-300 serivce. The route offers many connections onto the Middle East, Iran, Africa and offers business links in the region.”

A reader in the comments points out that one of the DPRK’s new Tupolevs was in Kuwait on March 25, 2011 at 10:54 CET, so the route may already be in use.

In April 2011, Air Koryo announced regular service to Kuala Lumpur.

UPDATE: This was apparently picked up by VOA and Yonhap.