North Korea’s national airline Air Koryo will begin operating weekly flights to the east coast city of Wonsan in June, online state news outlet the DPRK Today reported on Thursday.
The new route, set to begin operating on June 4, comes amid an increasing state focus on the Wonsan-Kalma coastal area as a top construction priority for 2018.
North Korea’s Kumgangsan International Travel Company first reported on the planned route in February, though did not offer a specific start date.
According to DPRK Today, flights will depart from Pyongyang Sunan International Airport every Monday at 1000 and arrive at (Wonsan) Kalma Airport forty minutes later.
The return journey then departs from Kalma at 1620 and arrives in Pyongyang at 1700 – suggesting visitors will be expected to spend a week in the area.
Efforts to develop the Wonsan-Kalma tourism zone have been stepped up in recent months, with rapid construction along the beach adjacent to the airport having begun in January.
Kim Jong Un first mentioned the “Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area” during his 2018 New Year’s Address, calling for the completion of the project “in the shortest period of time.”
North Korean officials have yet to announce an official target completion date, but sources have told NK News the goal may be July 27: the 65th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.
Party Foundation Day on October 10 has also been raised as a potential target date.
It is unclear, however, who will be using the new weekly route before the completion of the tourism project.
As of mid-May, satellite imagery has revealed that construction of over 170 buildings is underway at the site, with images from state media appearing to show several nine- and ten-story buildings in the preliminary stages of completion.
Rowan Beard, a tour guide with the China-based Young Pioneer Tours, told NK News the new route could help “expand tourism to the east side of the Korean peninsula,” citing the Mt. Kumgang, Masik Ski Resort, and the city of Hamhung as possible beneficiaries of the change.
The new route may also have “something to do” with the Wonsan-Kalma resort, he added.
Construction on the modernized Kalma Airport, situated along the same peninsula as the beach resort, began in late 2014.
The terminal building was completed in July 2015, though total runway construction appears to still be incomplete as of May.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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