North Korea's new plan to draw tourists

By Eric Talmadge

North Korea hopes its new air festival will attract more foreign tourists

North Korea is already a popular destination for Chinese tourists. Photo / AP
North Korea is already a popular destination for Chinese tourists. Photo / AP

North Korea has opened an air festival featuring sky diving, demonstrations by its air force and lots of beer to promote a newly renovated and upgraded commercial airport in the coastal city of Wonsan that it hopes will draw more foreign tourists.

North Korean men and women wave flags and cheer as they watch a military parachuting demonstration. Photo / AP
North Korean men and women wave flags and cheer as they watch a military parachuting demonstration. Photo / AP

The two-day International Friendship Air Festival has been touted for months by the North as part of its ongoing effort to draw more tourists to the area, which is already popular with Chinese tourists and in the past attracted many Japanese, who came by ferry.

Japanese visits dropped off abruptly as political relations deteriorated over revelations that North Korea had abducted more than a dozen Japanese people in the 1970s and 80s, and then over its nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs.

A remote-controlled plane hovers over the crowd at the Kalma Airport. Photo / AP
A remote-controlled plane hovers over the crowd at the Kalma Airport. Photo / AP

The new Wonsan airport features a sparkling terminal building with cafes, shops and an airy, glass-walled modern design.

Aircraft from the national flag-carrier, Air Koryo, were lined up on the tarmac in a static display.

A Hughes 500 helicopter, modified for military use, started off the show with a low-to-ground display of hovering and aerobatic techniques. The US-made helicopter has been shown here previously, raising questions about whether the North had obtained the helicopters in violation of sanctions.

North Korean female parachutists prepare to board a helicopter. Photo / AP
North Korean female parachutists prepare to board a helicopter. Photo / AP
A military parachutist flies the national flag of North Korea. Photo / AP
A military parachutist flies the national flag of North Korea. Photo / AP

A MiG-29, a Russian fighter jet, roared over the crowd to loud roars of cheers and applause.

The airport - officially called Kalma Airport - had previously been used by the military.

A waitress serves beers during the air festival. Photo / AP
A waitress serves beers during the air festival. Photo / AP

Thousands of Koreans turned out for the opening, along with a crowd of foreign journalists and tourists invited to attend the event.

Military parachutists descend upon Kalma Airport. Photo / AP
Military parachutists descend upon Kalma Airport. Photo / AP

North Korea has been trying to promote tourism for years, but its efforts have been severely hindered by international sanctions and political tensions over its nuclear weapons program.

North Korean men drink beer and snack on dried fish during an aerial display. Photo / AP
North Korean men drink beer and snack on dried fish during an aerial display. Photo / AP

The North tested its fifth nuclear weapon earlier this month, bring sharp criticism from its neighbours and especially the US.

- AAP

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 May 2017 10:54:46 Processing Time: 1034ms