DestinationsNorth Korea has reopened its borders with Air Koryo's inaugural flight to Beijing.

North Korea unlocks borders after three years

Air Koryo's flight marked a cautious step toward normalcy, with plans for regular flights between Pyongyang and Beijing.
Air Koryo's flight marked a cautious step toward normalcy, with plans for regular flights between Pyongyang and Beijing. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Mieszko9

After a prolonged three-year closure due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, North Korea has at last unlocked its borders. The country's national airline, Air Koryo, accomplished a significant milestone by successfully executing its inaugural international commercial flight to Beijing, China on 22 August.

Embarking from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, Air Koryo's flight JS151 touched down at Beijing's PEK Airport at 9:17 AM local time. Initially scheduled for 21 August, the flight encountered a sudden setback with a last-minute cancellation.

The specifics of the passengers aboard the inaugural Beijing flight remains a mystery. It is speculated that the flight could have been specially arranged to repatriate North Koreans stranded in China due to the lengthy border closures.

China's civil aviation authority disclosed to Reuters that Air Koryo is set to operate flights between Pyongyang and Beijing thrice a week, specifically on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This operational schedule is anticipated to span from 26 March to 28 October. Curiously, Air China, a former contender on this route, has yet to seek approval for a resumption of services, as confirmed by relevant authorities.

In an upcoming development, Air Koryo is gearing up to extend its eased border measures by introducing flights to Russia's Vladivostok on Friday, 25 August.

The decision to seal North Korea's borders in 2020 was a decisive response to the escalating threat of Covid-19 within the nation. Gradually, over the past year, North Korea cautiously resumed select cargo train and maritime traffic.

The nation recently welcomed official government delegations from both Russia and China. Additionally, a symbolic step was taken when a bus ferrying North Korean athletes to a Taekwondo competition in Kazakhstan crossed the Chinese border.

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