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New helipad built at N.K. leader's villa: report

All News 15:35 June 15, 2017

SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- A new helipad has been built at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's lakeside villa, a news report said Thursday, citing an analysis of satellite imagery.

Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, discovered the new structure in imagery of the villa taken on April 2, according to Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA).

The helipad, which appeared new, was built near a yacht dock and hall inside the villa compound in South Pyongan Province, northwestern North Korea, it said.

"The new helipad appears to have been built not for Kim Jong-un, but for his family," RFA's Korean language edition quoted Melvin as saying. "It could also be used by people who visit Kim Jong-un by helicopter during his stays at the villa. Or it could be for other privileged classes."

These images captured from Google Earth and provided by Curtis Melvin to RFA show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's villa before (R) and after the helipad's construction. (Yonhap)

Kim has built nine private runways since taking power in 2011 upon the death of his father and late leader Kim Jong-il, according to RFA. Given his penchant for planes, the young leader in his early 30s is expected to construct more runways and helipads for the exclusive use of him and the ruling elite, it said.

"Because of this, there continues to be criticism that a huge amount of labor and capital that have nothing to do with the North Korean people's lives is being wasted," it noted.

The manmade lake is also near the site where North Korea launched a newly developed medium-range ballistic missile called the Pukguksong-2 last month.

hague@yna.co.kr
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