TOPAround Asia: North Korean ski resort faces a chilly first season

Around Asia: North Korean ski resort faces a chilly first season

By Alec Jordan

North Korea is racing to build its first ever ski resort but swirling controversies could threaten to set back the lavish facility’s opening just in time for ski season.

The multi-million dollar Masik Pass ski resort set high in North Korea’s mountainous countryside is apparently ready to welcome skiers on October 10.

Featuring 110 km (70 miles) of multi-level ski runs, resort chalets and sleigh rides, the facility surrounded by sweeping landscapes and lush foliage would be a rare gem in the impoverished nation.

Young leader Kim Jong-Un said the resort was intended to present North Korea as a civilized and culturally advanced nation.

“We are now trying to build a lot of tourism sites, and skiing is the kind of sport that developed countries enjoy. It will also be a place for our own people to use,” North Korean Academy of Social Science economist Ri King Song told AP.

But the resort is not even halfway polished to live up to what Kim and other North Korean officials envisioned it would be. Kim is said to love the sport since his younger years while studying in Switzerland.

Roads leading to the secluded resort are pockmarked with holes while the two hotels are little more than empty shells, according to correspondents of The Associated Press who visited the site in September.

Questions such as who would visit the lavish ski resort have also arisen. There are only about 5,500 skiers estimated in North Korea, about 0.02% of the 24 million population.

North Korea recently lashed out at Switzerland over its refusal to sell ski lifts for the resort.

The regime said the Swiss government’s move amounted to “a human rights abuse.”

“This is an intolerable mockery of the social system and the people of the DPRK and a serious human rights abuse that politicizes sports and discriminates against the Koreans,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

Switzerland blocked the deal, citing United Nations trade sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear tests.

By: Maesie Bertumen

Image of ski slope in Samjiyon County, North Korea: Chris Price/Flickr