North Korea is set to begin operating numerous new domestic flights to Kalma International Airport this year, intended to serve tourists visiting the Mt. Kumgang region.
The Kumgangsan International Travel Company unveiled the plan, which represents a major expansion of North Korea’s domestic air travel, on its website earlier in the month.
“We are ready to operate the Pyongyang-Wonsan, Uiju-Wonsan, Samjiyon-Wonsan-Pyongyang domestic lines which use the recently refurbished and modernized Kalma Airport,” the website announced.
The new route will connect provinces in both the country’s north-west and north-west border areas to Wonsan – a move potentially targeted at Chinese tourists.
The development of the Kalma International Airport began in 2014, with the pro-Pyongyang Choson Sinbo newspaper reporting on Pyongyang’s plan to upgrade Wonsan airfield to accommodate thousands per day.
It was renovated in 2015, having been previously reserved for military use.
Data recorded by the NK Pro Aviation Tracker, however, shows almost no flight activity at the airport since its completion.
But Kalma did see some activity in January, when a South Korean chartered flight landed at the airport carrying South Korean skiers for a joint training session at the nearby Masikryong Ski Resort.
One source familiar with the issue said demand would likely be an issue, and that most North Korean tourists would prefer to drive due to transportation expenses and convenience.
“This is a thing they’ve always tried to do,” the source – who wished to remain anonymous – told NK News. “But they can’t operate scheduled flights as there is not enough demand for scheduled flights.”
“Nobody wants to take a scheduled flight from Pyongyang to Wonsan… if they do start services, it won’t last long.”
North Korea’s state media reported earlier in the month on plans to construct a new tourism zone in the Wonsan-Kalma region.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has reported the new district “will be the ideal place to link various tourist destinations to the Wonsan-Mt Kumgang international tourist zone.”
North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju visited the site earlier in the month and “gave a pep talk to soldier-builders” to finish the construction of the tourist zone “in the shortest period.”
Apart from the new domestic flight routes, the travel agency said “forms and contents of sightseeing have diversified.”
Travelers can now purchase a “general experience tour,” which includes fishing, a spa visit, camping, boating at the Samil Lagoon, bicycle tours, and trekking tours for climbers.
The travel agency says that the local Kosong Port Accommodation is “filled to capacity” and has received “favorable reviews from tourists.”
South Korea’s Hyundai Asan – which managed the resort in Mount Kumgang between 1999 and 2008 – previously confirmed to NK News that they had built the lodging.
The travel agency’s “general tourism products” will allow tourists to visit major cities including Pyongyang, Kaesong, Wonsan and Nampo, scenic spots, and Mount Kumgang.
The tourists can stay more than seven days, depending on their “demand and preference.”
Last year saw the travel agency announce that were seeking investment for construction of a 12-story hotel, a street of new restaurants providing local cuisine, and the operation of a new cruise ship line to Vladivostok and Southeast Asia.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: CPC_7309 by nknews_hq on 2016-10-03 15:52:49