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North Korea Unveils Lavish New Airport Terminal Filled With Designer Stores, Coffee Shops

06/25/2015 12:47 am ET | Updated Jun 25, 2016

By James Pearson

SEOUL, June 25 (Reuters) - Designer shirts, duty free watches and cosmetics, and chocolate fondue will soon await visitors to North Korea, according to photos of Pyongyang's new airport terminal released by state media on Thursday.

Three pages of Thursday's ruling Workers' Party official daily newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, were devoted to images of leader Kim Jong Un and his wife inspecting shops, restaurants and waiting areas in a large, glass-fronted terminal building state media said would open on July 1.

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Since taking power in 2011, Kim has promised to raise living standards in the isolated country, although many of the young leader's signature projects are showpieces beyond the reach of average North Koreans, such as a ski resort, water park, and riding stables.

While many North Koreans suffer from a lack of food, drinking water and stable electricity, in recent years a new moneyed class called "Donju," or "masters of money," has begun to spend more conspicuously the cash they earn in the unofficial economy.

In one image, Mars Bars, Werther's Originals and bottled beers were on display in one of the airport's new duty free shops. Another showed a cafe serving espresso-based drinks.

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Most of the tiny handful of flights to and from the capital ferry tourists and North Koreans on official business between Pyongyang and Beijing. The vast majority of tourists to North Korea are from neighboring China, North Korea's main ally.

The country does not publish tourist numbers, but travel agencies estimate as many as 6,000 westerners visit the country every year, although visits decreased following a border closure over fears of the deadly Ebola virus last year.

Thursday also marked 65 years since the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, where a China and Soviet-backed North Korea fought against South Korea and its U.S. and U.N. allies. The two Koreas remain technically in a state of war.

(Editing by Michael Perry)

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