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Wonsan Air Base

During the autumn of 1950 night fighter versions of the Navy F4U Corsair, flown by Marine Squadron VMF(N)-513 operated from this field as well as Itazuke, Wonsan and Yonpo. Also at the same time the 3rd squadron stationed SA-13 aircraft for strip alert During the UN retreat they relocated to Taegu.

Wonsan is a logistics city. A highway and railroad connects Wonsan with the capital of Pyongyang, while a railway runs from Wonsan to the Russian city of Khasan by way of Hamheung, Chongjin and Rajin. Trains departing from South Koreas southeastern port city of Busan could access the Trans-Siberian Railway if and when a Eurasian rail network is built to expand the economic territory of the Korean Peninsula into Eurasia. Moreover, North Korea has renovated Kalma Airport, which had been a military airfield, into an international airport servicing passengers flying to and from Wonsan.

If the infrastructure is used properly, some analysts say that Wonsan could become North Koreas economic capital. In fact, the North has tried hard to lure foreign investors to the Wonsan-Mt. Geumgang tourist site.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea from the Hodo Peninsula, northeast of Wonsan, on 25 July 2019. The missiles turned out to be the North Korean version of the Russian Iskander. The North again launched two short-range projectiles from the Wonsan-Kalma area on July 31st. Its apparent that North Korea is engaging in military activities, including ballistic missile launches, near the eastern coastal town of Wonsan.

A large-scale construction is underway, as a project to develop Wonsan into a tourism zone is in full swing. On todays edition of Inside North Korea, well talk about why the North is creating a tourism resort in this particular area with Professor Chung Eun-chan from the Institute for Unification Education.

In March of 2013, the second year of Kim Jong-uns reign, the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers Party in North Korea decided to establish economic development zones in the nation. Two months later, the Supreme Peoples Assembly enacted a relevant law. In November of that year, North Korea announced a plan to form an international tourism zone covering Wonsan and Mt. Geumgang on the east coast.

In July of 2016, Kim announced an additional plan to develop the Kalma area into a tourism zone. He also inspected the construction site of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist zone several times to step up his tourism push.

In 2013, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced a plan to build a huge resort complex of hotels, amusement facilities and water parks in Wonsan. He again unveiled a plan in 2016 to nurture the Kalma site in Wonsan into a global tourist attraction.

North Korea initially planned to open the Wonsan tourist zone by April 15th of this year, the birthday of the nations founder Kim Il-sung. But the schedule was pushed back to April of next year due to the lack of construction equipment and supplies. Professor Chung now explains why North Korea is putting so much effort into the development of the Wonsan tourist zone.

First, North Korea hopes to show to the outside world that the nation is capable enough to complete the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist zone independently, by using its own resources under the instruction of its leader, despite strong international sanctions. When he conducted a field inspection of the construction site, Kim Jong-un stressed that his nation would demonstrate its power through this tourism project no matter how severely hostile forces imposed sanctions on the nation.

Second, developing Wonsan into an international tourist city had been an important goal for the Norths former leaders. Back in 1972, then-leader Kim Il-sung expressed his hope to develop Wonsan as an international cultural and resort city equipped with luxury hotels and modern swimming pools. Since then, various development projects have been planned. The current leader aims to fulfill his predecessors long-cherished desire by focusing his regimes tourism push on the Wonsan area.

At present, North Korea is under harsh international sanctions. But paying for tourism services in North Korea in cash is not banned under the sanctions. Thats why foreign tourists, including Chinese travelers, can visit the North. Kim Jong-un is stressing the importance of self-reliance, while concentrating on tourism that is not subject to sanctions. More importantly, Wonsan is considered to be an ideal tourist resort for multiple reasons.

As a major port city on the east coast, Wonsan is 150 kilometers from Pyongyang, 85 kilometers from Mt. Geumgang and 180 kilometers from Seoul. Also, the Masik Pass ski resort is just 45 kilometers from Wonsan. So the three destinationsWonsan, the mountain and the ski resortare located close to each other. There are some 20 small and big islands in Wonsans coastal area. The Kalma Peninsula is in the southern part of Wonsan bay and the Hodo Peninsula is located northeast of Wonsan. Wonsan is famous for the Songdowon sea bathing resort and a four-kilometer-long pristine beach featuring extremely fine sand. The area boasts a wonderful natural environment.

Once called the pearl of the East Sea, Wonsan has a number of tourist attractions, including the Songdowon sea bathing resort with its crystal-clear water and long, white sandy beach extending on the seashore with blooming red sweetbrier flowers. In addition, there is the Chongsok Pavilion that was regarded as one of the eight scenic spots of the eastern part of the Korean Peninsula during ancient times and the Ullim Falls which produces thunderous echoes. Mt. Geumgang, known for its scenic beauty and the Masik ski resort are also located nearby. North Korea has actively promoted the ski resort overseas since it opened in 2014.

Along with its various attractions, Wonsans geographical advantage is another reason why North Korea is so enthusiastic about developing the area. The international tourist zone spanning from Wonsan to Mt. Geumgang, if realized, will be greatly significant for North Korea, which is struggling to overcome internal and external economic crises.

Wonsan is ideally located on the east coast as a strategic economic point and tourism hub that has the potential to attract foreign tourists. It can be connected all the way to Eurasia via Russia, with a railroad linking Wonsan to other North Korean coastal regions such as Hamheung and Chongjin as well as the Russian border city of Khasan. It also takes only three to four hours by air to travel to Hong Kong or Taiwan.

If South and North Korea manage to revitalize bilateral economic exchanges and build infrastructure to advance their influence to the Eurasian continent, the envisioned tourist zone will provide great economic benefits to South Korea as well.

Wonsan is the largest port on North Koreas east coast. It was one of the three Korean ports, along with Busan and Incheon, to be opened to foreign traders from 1876 to 1883, following the 1876 Treaty of Ganghwa Island that forced Korea to open up for trade with Japan.

From 2013, North Korea has held international symposiums and investment briefing sessions to draw foreign investment to the Wonsan-Mt. Geumgang area. To that end, however, the North Korean nuclear issue should first be resolved and international sanctions on the North should be lifted. North Korea could then create a favorable investment environment not only for South Korea but for the international community, with Wonsan driving economic growth and developing into a global tourism hub.

Many foreign investors showed interest in the Wonsan tourism zone, but North Korea has failed to attract foreign investment due to ever-intensifying international sanctions on the country following its continuous nuclear and missile development. The key is Pyongyangs commitment to denuclearization. During his first summit with Kim Jong-un in June 2018, Donald Trump delivered a message to Kim that North Korean beaches could be developed as tourist sites rather than a place where cannons are deployed.

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Page last modified: 23-01-2020 17:44:08 ZULU