Pyongyang's shiny new airport building has all the features international travelers have come to expect, though some lose their luster upon closer examination. Case in point: Its Internet room appears to be missing the Internet. On two recent trips through the airport by the AP, the room's three terminals were either occupied by North Korean airport employees, making it impossible for others to use them, or were completely empty, with their keyboards removed. Attempts to open any browser with a mouse resulted in a failure to connect. Maybe it was a temporary glitch, but a quick check of the history on two of the terminals showed one was either empty or had been cleared, and the other had a record only of a visit to Naenara, the North's official website.
At first glance, Internet at the airport would seem like quite a concession for a country that's almost completely sealed off from the World Wide Web. Hardly any North Koreans have personal-use computers, and most of those with online access can see only the country's domestic version of the Web—an intranet that's for internal use only and has only websites that are sanctioned by the government. The Internet room at the airport, which opened a few months ago, is just part of efforts there to give visitors the sense that North Korea is just like any other modern travel destination. Another oddity: The smoking room has a health warning, something almost never seen in the North, where just about every adult male who can afford it, including leader Kim Jong Un, is a smoker. (Read more North Korea stories.)