Is it true an architect’s design led to his state-sanctioned execution?

As editor of Middle East Architect, building design is my job.

And for many in the profession – that’s also the case. It’s a job. It may be creative, it may have social impact, but in the end it’s a way to make a living.

But in some instances , design is really a matter of life and death.

Take the case of North Korean architect Ma Won-chun.

He is one of six high-level diplomats who has not been seen in public since last year following a purge – and reports suggest that the leader of the country ordered his execution because he was unhappy about the design of a new airport.

According to state run media, President Kim Jong-un said: “Defects were manifested in the last phase of the construction of the Terminal 2 because the designers failed to bear in mind the party’s idea of architectural beauty that it is the life and soul and core in architecture to preserve the Juche [former president Kim Il Sung’s philosophy of national self-reliance].”

Kim Jong-un is believed to have thought the existing terminal was too small and unimpressive compared with foreign rivals. It now features a jewellery store, coffee bar, a pharmacy, a chocolate fountain and other luxury amenities, but flights only go to Beijing and Moscow. He called the new building “absolute perfection” – but I guess that’s of little comfort to the architect’s family.

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