Wonsan City (원산시) is a municipal city and the capital city of Kangwon province located on the east coast. The city is the most ‘mixed’ city in the country, with numerous features and purposes as a tourist resort, military base and proving ground and a seaport. Considered the perfect location for a port given it’s location on the eastern side of the ‘neck’ of the Korean Peninsula, it has been a major seaport for international trade. The port at Wonsan has allowed for heavy infrastructure investment, especially in developing it’s connections with the rest of the country, something which, in turn, has helped make it a prime candidate for developing into a new destination for domestic and international tourism.
It is reported that Chairman Kim Jong Un spent holidays at Wonsan as a child, and since his rise to power in 2011, the city has undergone major development to help turn it into a tourist destination. If the development is completed, the city could become a major route for foreign currency to enter the DPRK’s economy. One of the first completed developments was the Kalma airport at Wonsan, a dual military and civil airport meant to allow for large numbers of tourists to get to Wonsan from Pyongyang (and potentially abroad). The region has been used by the Songdowon Children’s Union as a camp for years, the pine forests and beaches providing the perfect location. Given the natural beauty and plans for the future, 2016 saw the creation of the Wonsan Special Tourist Zone, inside which a major ski resort called Masikryong was also constructed. The area is still undergoing major construction under the plans created by the Wonsan Zone Development Corporation, a state run corporation overseeing the area’s development. To push the idea of a tourist centred Wonsan, 2016 saw the first air festival staged over the city using Kalma airport as it’s base.
Wonsan has long been military site for the Korean People’s Army, Air Force and Navy. Kalma airport serves as a base for the Air Force and the position on the east coast means it can act as a major airbase for defensive purposes over the East Sea. Military drills and artillery live fire exercises have been held on the beaches around Wonsan and the port also serves as a naval base, providing defence for the south-east of the country.
Kalma airport is served by Air Koryo, allowing tourists to visit the city. The number of flights is likely to rise exponentially as development continues in Wonsan and more tourist facilities are completed. During the airports construction, it was suggested it could act as an international airport, accepting flights from abroad, currently Sunan, Pyongyang is the only airport running international passenger flights. The city, a major port, is well linked into the highway and rail networks with a rail line across the centre of the country to Pyongyang. The city also acts as a terminus for both the Wonsan-Kumgagsan and Pyongyang-Wonsan highways. These allow for goods to be transported to the port, and the ease of access makes developing the city even easier since much of the required infrastructure is already in place.
Conclusion Wonsan is a significant city, acting as a military base, seaport and tourist destination. It is likely to continue to evolve into more and more of a tourist-based city given it’s new facilities and proximity to locations such as Kumgangsan and Songdowon beach, both of which are already popular destinations for Korean and international tourists. The city was probably chosen for development at the instruction of Chairman Kim Jong Un, and because it’s role as a seaport means the large highways and rail links mean developing the city will not require the construction of a vast new east-west transportation network, with all materials being able to utilise pre-existing infrastructure. The Kalma airport remains the most high-tech airport, aside from Pyongyang, showing the significant investment the government is making in Wonsan.