Fletcher in the News

Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee on North Korea's Airline, Air Koryo

International Business Times

Air Koryo: North Korea's Strange, But Functioning, Airline

North Korea, one of the poorest, most isolated and repressive nations on earth, perhaps surprisingly, boasts a functional national airline that has a decent safety record and which flies to more destinations than one might expect.

Originally founded in 1950 as a North Korean-Soviet joint venture, the state-controlled Air Koryo has a fleet of about 30, mostly older Russian-made aircraft, and flies to 14 airports in six countries, with Beijing (three flights per week) and Shenyang in northeastern China (twice weekly), the most frequent destinations.

The European Union has largely banned Air Koryo from landing in any airports under its jurisdiction due to what the European Civil Aviation Authority calls “serious safety deficiencies” and other similar issues. In March 2010, the EU said it would let Air Koryo operate two newer, Russian-made Tupolev Tu-204 jets into the Union, although that has not yet led to any links between Pyongyang and Western European capitals.

Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, who teaches Korean affairs at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said the EU is likely motivated more by politics than a genuine concern over Air Koryo's safety standards.

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