In the midst of the insular totalitarian metropolis that is North Korea’s capital city, a gleaming and surprisingly extravagant new international terminal now stands at Pyongyang International Airport.
On Thursday, June 25, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took a tour through the swanky two-story terminal with his wife and an entourage of about a dozen people. The terminal features such amenities as a jewelry store, a wine bar, a pharmacy and a coffee bar that even boasts a chocolate fountain. Pyongyang now has the kind of airport that would make any American traveler green with envy.
“He was very satisfied to see the terminal well built as required by modern architectural beauty and national character,” North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmum said of the country’s supreme leader.
The facility will open July 1, complete with a new air traffic control tower. It will replace Pyongyang’s former international terminal, which was constructed in the 1950s, and is likely part of Kim’s efforts to attract foreign tourism and inject a new revenue flow into the country.
When pharmacy and drugstore sales generated an incredible $231.46 million in the U.S. alone throughout 2011, it’s not surprising that Pynogyang’s international airport decided to add its own pharmacy.
At the same time, it’s unclear how North Korea — an impoverished, destitute nation — was able to find the funding for such a structure. According to the Los Angeles Times, the country hasn’t released information about how much the terminal cost to construct, either.
Since inheriting control of North Korea, Kim has taken measures to make the country more attractive to foreign tourists, including opening a ski resort, encouraging celebrities to visit, and inviting overseas runners to participate in the Pyongyang marathon. Currently, about 100,000 tourists visit North Korea each year, with most of these coming from China and Russia, the Washington Post reported.
While North Korean officials plan to eventually attract one million tourists each year, the country often runs into roadblocks to this goal — most often of its own creation. The country has arrested a number of Western tourists, doing nothing to change its perception as a police state, and notoriously closed its borders to outsiders entirely as a reaction to the Ebola crisis.
Whether or not an airport terminal that features a chocolate fondue fountain will change outsider perceptions of North Korea remains to be seen — but it’s not looking likely.