Some of the world’s most riskiest airspace is above the cloistered and sometimes trigger-happy hermit Kingdom of North Korea, the Stalinist holdout that remains in an active state of war with its southern neighbour and possesses one of the world’s largest militaries. U.S. airlines are prohibited from flying over the country and even the airspace over neighbouring South Korea poses some potential hazards of its own.
Blogger Martyn Williams at the website North Korea Tech used the website FlightRadar24 to track air traffic over North Korea for a single, 24-hour period. The results are perhaps unsurprising: Few international carriers are willing to fly over the country, although there are some notable exceptions, including Lufthansa, Air France, and KLM. Williams found that some South Korean airlines fly a dog-ear-style angular pattern to avoid North Korean airspace during flights to Russia’s far east — eschewing a far more direct route that would take them over their northern neighbour.
But the video is still a demonstration of the depths of North Korea’s current isolation. The video shows planes flocking to Seoul’s Incheon airport, while the skies of a country of over 25 million people remain virtually empty.
And they look to remain that way. Today, it was reported that two Americans held in North Korea would face trial on trumped-up charges of “perpetrating hostile acts,” another blatant instance of Pyongyang ransoming foreign citizens in the hopes of exchanging them for an incremental upgrade in diplomatic relations. With the UN increasingly scrutinizing North Korea’s infamous human rights record and its traditional ally China pivoting towards Seoul, North Korea is arguably inching towards even greater isolation — a state of affairs that could only buttress regime elites who fear a loss in status under an even slightly more open system.
This video is a stark visualisation of how closed off North Korea really is, even in a time where air travel is cheaper and more plentiful than at any point in history.
Read the rest of Williams’ post — which includes a handy guide to Japanese flights that fly almost directly over the North Korean capital of Pyongyang — here.
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