A Look at Airspace in North Korea and the Surrounding Area

Over the past few days, we’ve received quite a few questions about airspace over North Korea and South Korea. The most common question: is North Korean airspace always that empty? And second, do you have coverage there? We’ve also been asked about patterns of flights to and from South Korea and Japan. In this post, we’ll answer some questions and take a look at airspace on the Korean Peninsula.

Korean Airspace | 08:30 UTC | 14 April 2017

The red lines denote the airspace boundaries, or Flight Information Regions. The white and yellow lines are air routes available for use by aircraft. In the image above, Aurora (a subsidiary of Aeroflot) flight 5462 is operating through North Korean airspace on air route G711 between Vladivostok and Busan.

Does Flightradar24 have coverage in North Korea?

Yes, but it is limited. We do not have any receivers in North Korea, but ADS-B receivers near North Korea in South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia help us track flights within North Korean airspace. Most of our ADS-B coverage of North Korea is limited to altitudes above 20,000 feet. Some portions of North Korea (like eastern coast in the center of the country) lack coverage.

Does it always look like that?

An common view of airspace on the Korean Peninsula

In short, yes. We track approximately 10-30 flights per day through North Korean airspace, most of which are overflights by international carriers transiting North Korea, such as the S7 flight pictured below.

S7 Airlines flight 531 from Vladivostok to Shanghai

We also track the regularly scheduled Air China flights to and from Pyongyang.

Air China flight 122 from Pyongyang to Beijing

Previously, some European carriers had transited North Korea en route from Europe to Japan, but those overflights have since ceased. American carriers are prohibited from operating flights in North Korean airspace west of 132 degrees east longitude, but in practice, flights generally avoid North Korea altogether and either fly through Russia and China or south through Japan.

Differing approaches to Seoul by American Airlines flight 281 from Dallas.

Has anything changed recently?

We’ve detected no changes in how airlines are flying in and around North Korea. You can view traffic in the area for yourself on Flightradar24.com.