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Pyongyang is the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea, and the largest city in the country. Pyongyang is located on the Taedong River which flows southwestward through the city toward the Korea Bay. According to preliminary results from an outdated 2008 population census, has a population of 3,255,388. It is located in a low area, flat lands, or 'cosy place' in the Northwest of the Korean Peninsula.

One of Pyongyang's many historic names is Ryugyong, or "capital of willows", as willow trees have always been numerous throughout the city's history, and many poems have been written about these willows. Even today, the city has numerous willow trees, with many buildings and places having "Ryugyŏng" in their names

In 1955, archaeologists excavated evidence of prehistoric occupation in a large ancient village called Kŭmtan-ni, in the Pyongyang area, from the Chŭlmun and Mumun pottery periods. North Koreans associate Pyongyang with "Asadal", or Wanggomsŏng, the first capital (second millennium BC) of the Gojoseon kingdom according to Korean history books, notably Samguk Yusa.

Pyongyang has a history of 5000 years and dated back to the Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty 108 BC. It is likely that the area of Pyongyang belonged to Wiman Joseon, the longest-lasting part of Gojoseon, which fell in the Gojoseon-Han war. The city of Pyongyang and its surrounding has suffered a lot during the long history of this period.

Pyongyang was again severely damaged in the Korean War, during which it was briefly occupied by South Korean forces. During 1950 - 1953, it was the target of the largest aerial raid of the entire war, involving 1,400 UN aircraft. After the war, the city was quickly rebuilt with Soviet aid, with many buildings built in Socialist Classicism. The rebuilt city featured extensive parks, broad boulevards, and high-rise apartments. Pyongyang became the political, economic, and transportation center of North Korea.

The climate of Pyongyang is a humid continental climate. Cold, dry winds can blow from Siberia in winter, making conditions very cold; the temperature is usually below freezing between November and early March, though the average daytime high is a few degrees above freezing in every month except January. The winter is generally much drier than summer, with snow falling for 37 days on average. Summers are generally hot and humid, with the East Asian monsoon taking place from June until August; these are also the hottest months.

The capital has been completely redesigned since the Korean War (1950–1953). It is designed with wide avenues, imposing monuments, and monolithic buildings. The tallest structure in the city is the uncompleted 330-metre (1,083 ft) Ryugyŏng Hotel. This hotel has 105 floors and encloses 361,000 square metres (3,885,772 sq ft) of floor space. Pyongyang TV Tower is a minor landmark. Other visitor attractions include the Korea Central Zoo and the large golden statue of Kim Il-sung The Arch of Reunification has a map of a united Korea supported by two concrete Korean women dressed in traditional dress straddling the multi-laned (but not completely paved) Reunification Highway, which stretches from Pyongyang to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The city also has regular international rail services to Beijing and Moscow. A journey to Beijing takes about 25 hours and 25 minutes (K27 from Beijing/K28 from Pyongyang, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays); a journey to Moscow takes 6 days. The city also connects to the Eurasian Land Bridge via the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Pyongyang Metro is a two-line underground metro system which has a length of 22.5 km (14.0 mi). There is also a 53 km (33 mi) long Pyongyang tram system and a 150 km (93 mi) Pyongyang trolleybus system. The trolley bus-stops are fairly busy. It is difficult to gauge how widely the metro is used, as tourists are permitted to travel only between designated stops with a guide.

State-owned Air Koryo has scheduled flights from Sunan Capital International Airport to Beijing (PEK), Shenyang (SHE). Air Koryo also operates limited scheduled service to a few domestic destinations. The only domestic destinations are Hamhung, Wonsan, Chongjin, Hyesan and Samjiyon. In April 2008, Air China launched a regular service between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Tourism in North Korea is organized by the state-owned Korea International Travel Company (KITC). All tourists/visitors are constantly accompanied by one or two guides, who usually speak the tourist's native language. While tourism has increased over the last few years, tourists from Western countries remain few. Most visitors come from China, Russia, and Japan. For citizens of South Korea, it is almost impossible to get a visa to North Korea; they can get entry permits to special tourist areas designated for South Koreans, such as Kaesong. United States citizens were also subject to visa restrictions, allowed to visit only during the yearly Arirang Festival; these restrictions were lifted in January 2010.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Post Cards from Pyongyang
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

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Reading about an Aviation Enthusiast Tour to the DPRK, organized by Juche Travel Services which offered the opportunity to fly on classic Russian jet aircraft was too good to be true. Some of my friends went on the first tour and came back with incredible pictures and stories. So I decided to book for the October tour, which would be the last one in 2012.

What would be on the program? First off, an extensive tour of this fascinating country, several visits to local cities, landmarks and other places of interest. The added bonus, a total of 9 flights on a variety of outdated airplane types operated by North-Korea's national airline, Air Koryo! Air Koryo's fleet is very interesting, consisting of mostly classic Russian airplanes. Most of these airplane types aren't currently operated in commercial service anymore with any other airline, apart from government operators and cargo airlines. The following types were offered; Antonov 24RV, Ilyushin 18D, Ilyushin 62M, Ilyushin 76MD, Tupolev 134B-3 and Tupolev 154B or Tupolev 204 (depending on whether you opted to fly to Shenyang on the -154, or to Beijing on the -204). I always wanted to sample a flight IL-62 and came close to travelling Cuba and fly on the Cubana IL-62, but as I was contemplating my trip, Cubana retired them. I even considered traveling to Kazakhstan for the Deta Air kombi IL-62, but that a/c also was retired. So my only option was Air Koryo!

The official trip starts in Beijing where all group members meet and greet at a North Korean restaurant and collect there visa's and air tickets and simultaneously enjoy some exotic DPRK food and music. For me this was my first ever trip to Asia and I traveled with Lufthansa via Frankfurt onboard the new Queen of the Skies, the double-deck A380-800. I decided to spend a couple of days sightseeing in Beijing, as my hotel was near the city center. I was lucky with the weather, no real heavy smog and it was a pleasant 16-18 degrees Celsius. Spend some time exploring the huge Tianánmen Square and the Forbidden City complex. The following day I hired a taxi from the hotel and spend the whole afternoon at the equally huge China Aviation Museum at Xiaotangshan.

Our aviation trip to DPRK started at Beijing International airport (PEK) where we boarded Air Koryo flagship Ilyushin IL-62M (P881) for a flight to Pyongyang Sunan International Airport (FNJ). At 12.30 local time we boarded flight JS-152 and most of us (40 enthusiast photographers) were seated in the aft cabin. This 1986 vintage, Kazan built IL-62 with c/n 3647853, was delivered to CAAK in 1986 and is now one of the world's last remaining commercially active IL-62s. Air Koryo has a second IL-62 which is an in a VIP configuration. They recently purchased an ex Cubana IL-62 (P-886P) which is parked at Pyongyang Sunan airport. Its not sure what Air Koryo intends to do with this a/c?

Normally Air Koryo uses its modern Tupolev Tu-204 twin jet type on this route, but P-881 was specially assigned to today's flight, due to the Juche Aviation Tour group. I was seated in 22A right side and had a great view of the aft wing and outboard engine cowling. After a lengthy taxi we finally lifted of from Beijing runway and I enjoyed the screaming howling of the Ilyushin massive 4 Soloviev D-30-KU's fan engines. After a leisurely climb to our cruising altitude the Air Koryo cabin crew came round with the Pyongyang Times newspaper and a in-flight lunch and drinks. After about an hour in cruise we started our descend into Pyongyang main airport (FNJ) serving Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, located in the city's Sunan-guyŏk, 24 kilometres (15 mi) North of the city's center. The gear was lowered at an unusually high altitude apparently for air-brake purposes. After a smooth touchdown on runway 01/19 4000m (remote runway) the two outboard engines went into maximum reverse-thrust creating an ear deafening thundering noise. The IL-62 taxied in front of the small temporarily terminal and shut down it D-30 engines. Several minutes later we left the good old IL-62 via uncomplicated air-stairs and walked 50m towards the terminal….welcome in Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The 7-day Aviation Tour Itinerary was packed with sight seeing trips through-out the city of Pyongyang, visit's to revolutionary sites, DMZ border, museums, lunches, souvenir shops and dinners. The chartered IL-18 flight to Orang airport & the chartered Tu-134 flight to Sondok were scheduled on Monday and Thursday respectively. A separate day was reserved for the chartered IL-76 and An-24 flight which in our case also went to Sondok. Due to the size of the group, it was spitted into to busses, each with there own tour guides. There was practically no room for relaxation. The only time this was available was at the last day in the Majon Deluxe Hotel at the Hungnam beach resort. Walking excisions in the City of Pyonyang was only held twice, where we were able to walk from Kim II Sung square to our Koryo Hotel and a short walk to the Central Station building.

The pictures below reflect my 7 day visit to Pyongyang and several other places such as Kyongsong city (North), Kaesong city (near DMZ), Sondok (Hamhung) and the coastal city of Hungnam. I have tried to show street views, urban city life & tourist places as I have seen it and not in a particular order. It was just my glimpse of the weird and wonderful country.

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Juche Travel Services has officially announced the 2013 aviation tour program. They will be running four aviation tours of the DPRK in 2013:
11th - 18th May 2013
15th - 22nd June 2013
14th - 21st September 2013
19th - 26th October 2013

Flights and corresponding aircraft are:
Beijing – Pyongyang: Ilyushin Il-62 (To Be Confirmed)
Pyongyang – Samjiyon (return, 2 legs): Ilyushin IL-18
Pyongyang – Sondok (return, 1 leg each): Tupolev Tu-134 and Antonov An-24
Pyongyang – Sondok (return, 2 legs): Tupolev Tu-154
Pyongyang – Beijing: Tupolev Tu-204
Ramp photography at Pyongyang Sunan airport and other visited airports, static cockpit photography, and a guided tour of one of the world's last surviving Ilyushin IL-14s, is all included in the tour price.
For more info see:

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PART 2 ---->

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