Brand-new Py­ongyang air­port In­ter­net room a closed win­dow on North Korea

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST - BY ERIC TAL­MADGE

Py­ongyang’s shiny new air­port build­ing has all the fea­tures in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers have come to ex­pect, though some lose their luster upon closer ex­am­i­na­tion. Case in point: Its In­ter­net room ap­pears to be miss­ing the In­ter­net.

On two re­cent trips through the air­port by The As­so­ci­ated Press, the room’s three ter­mi­nals were ei­ther oc­cu­pied by North Korean air­port em­ploy­ees, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for oth­ers to use them, or were com­pletely empty, with their key­boards re­moved. At­tempts to open any browser with a mouse re­sulted in a fail­ure to con­nect.

Maybe it was a tem­po­rary glitch. It’s hard to say, since air­port of­fi­cials have re­fused to com­ment to the AP.

But a quick check of the history on two of the ter­mi­nals showed one was ei­ther empty or had been cleared, and the other had a record only of a visit to Nae­nara, the North’s of­fi­cial web­site.

At first glance, In­ter­net at the air­port would seem like quite a con­ces­sion for a coun­try that is al­most com­pletely sealed off from the World Wide Web.

Hardly any North Kore­ans have per­sonal-use com­put­ers and most of those with online ac­cess can see only the coun­try’s do­mes­tic ver­sion of the Web — an in­tranet that has only web­sites that are sanc­tioned by the gov­ern­ment and is for in­ter­nal use only.

The In­ter­net it­self can be seen only by a small num­ber of elites, IT ex­perts or oth­ers with a clear need to use it, and al­ways un­der close su­per­vi­sion.

The In­ter­net room at the air­port, which opened a few months ago, is just part of ef­forts there to give visi­tors the sense that North Korea is just like any other mod­ern travel des­ti­na­tion.

Ar­riv­ing pas­sen­gers see cof­fee and well-stocked sou­venir shops, a DVD stand, in­for­ma­tion desk and a slickly pro­duced bill­board show­ing a crew of the na­tion’s flag-car­rier, Air Ko­ryo, look- ing sharp in their blue and red uni­forms. There are even two cho­co­late foun­tains, one for white cho­co­late and the other for dark.

Another nod to in­ter­na­tional norms can be seen right be­hind the In­ter­net room, in the smok­ing room.

In some­thing al­most never seen in the North, where just about ev­ery adult male who can af­ford it, in­clud­ing leader Kim Jong Un, is a smoker, the room has a big sign warn­ing that the habit is haz­ardous to one’s health.

AP

Com­put­ers with no key­board pro­vided are seen at an In­ter­net fa­cil­ity at the air­port in Py­ongyang, North Korea, Mon­day, Aug. 24.

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