Welcome to North Korea, We Hope You Enjoyed Your Flight!

A natural beauty greets passengers at the Pyongyang International Airport, North Korea.

Pyongyang Airport Beauty

Randy Schmidt, cameraman and editor for CBS News, recounts his recent exchange with a flight attendant on Air Koryo:

“Where are you from?” the North Korean flight attendant asks me.“I’m American, but I live in Japan.” “I hate America! I hate Japan! What would you like to drink today, sir?” she said.

I suppose the above could be true, but I tend to think the encounter was sensationalized at the very least.  The North Koreans we encountered never let slip any blatant anti Americanism – although the stewardesses of Air Koryo did put on some of the best unintentional comedy of the trip.

After packing into the old Russian Il-62 jet liner, our outbound Beijing to Pyongyang flight was delayed and we sat on the tarmac for 2 hours.  Between dealing with cramped passengers, and scrambling to wipe up dripping pools of condensation from the overhead, the stewardesses subjected us to our first introduction to the famous draconian rules and regulations of North Korea.  As a group, we had been told “no photos” on the airplane, but of course we snuck photos.  When the North Korean stewardesses finally ran out of patience they singled out a transgressor to make an example of, and with the entire passengers cabin attention, a stewardess made a traveler flip through his digital camera pictures, “delete that one, yes, and that one, yes, keep going, and delete that one, yes” – it was quite the show!  We had been warned about the sensitivity to photography in North Korea, but this was the only time I witnessed such corrective actions – and we were still in Beijing!

The comedy continued when the trip’s eccentric (an older man from Mexico city) pulled a bottle of wine out of his carry on bag, and to the horror of the stewardesses, passed the bottle around the cabin, encouraging everyone to take a big swig.  A stern faced North Korean stewardess intercepted the bottle and proclaimed:

“you cant pass a glass bottle around the cabin”

“¿Por Que No?”

“because it is unsafe, and…………because drinking is bad for your health!”

Air Koryo

Air Koryo stewardesses wipe up condensation on the Russian made Ilyushin Il-62 jet liner during our 2 hour run way delay for take off out of Beijing.

Pyongyang Airport

Pyongyang International Airport in the afternoon sun, DPRK, North Korea.

Air Koryo Fleet of Jets

More jets in the Air Koryo fleet.

Koryo Airlines North Korea

Air Koryo jet and helicopters.

Cute Airport Official North Korea

Pyongyang International Airport official.

Pyongyang, North Korea Airport

Pyongyang International Airport official at the departure lounge.

North Korean Visa

Joseph A Ferris III with the group visa to North Korea.

North Korean Visa

Jordan Harbinger and Gabriel Mizarhi with the North Korean group visa.

7 responses

  1. It must be an amazing country – I wish I could go there soon – i bet in a couple years it is going to be quite different …

    December 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

  2. Haha “drinking is bad for your health”. Nice.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm

  3. Ted

    Awesome Pictures. I went with Koryo in March 2011 and it was absolutely fascinating.
    Unfortunately when we flew in and out we were on one of the new Air Koryo Tupolev 204 (think boeing 737) so we did not have the condensation issues. I was looking forward to riding on one of the old jets.

    Also did you all go through a new terminal at the airport? I read that they just completed a new terminal for Kim Il Sungs birthday celebrations next year. There were no signs of it in March 2011.

    Fascinating place. I am still absorbing the entire experience, expecially the Mausoleum experience.

    Who were your North Korean guides?

    December 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    • I went with Mr. Lee and Mrs. Kim as guides – read further, I have post about them. Not sure about the terminal, didn’t look that old, but not too modern either.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      • Ted

        Mr. Lee was a guide on our tour but he was not assigned to our bus. We had Mr. Kim, Ms.Kim, and Mr.O on our bus. I really liked all of the guides.

        There were 30 in our group, divided into two buses. My Father, myself, and a guy from Utah named Christian were the only Americans on the tour.

        Looking forward to reading the rest of your blog.

        December 16, 2011 at 1:44 am

  4. Pingback: Koryo Dynasty Tombs « An American in North Korea

  5. Alvin-Jr

    in terms of year and interior, the air koryo fleets are old. But in terms of flying hours, I think the fleet is quite young. maybe it can fly for another 15 years.

    July 22, 2012 at 10:51 am

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