Kim Jong-un has ordered the North Korean military to construct a “world-class” ski resort that will rival the winter sports facilities being built in South Korea to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Kim recently visited the location of the Masik Pass Skiing Ground to give “on the spot field guidance” on the construction of the resort, which will have beginner, intermediate and advanced-level routes on more than 68 miles of mountainside.
The highest peak in the mountains around the site rises more than 4,400 feet above sea level.
No expense is being spared on the project and the resort will have a hotel, cable cars, equipment stores and a heliport, the KCNA state media reported.
“[Kim] mounted an observation deck to hear a detailed report on the construction of the skiing ground,” the report said.
“He was greatly satisfied to learn that soldier-builders have constructed a skiing area on mountain ranges covering hundreds of thousands of square metres.”
Kim also commented that it would be “more fantastic” to see the ground covered with snow and ordered the military to accelerate the pace of the construction so that the resort is operational from the coming winter.
The site also benefits from its proximity to the Pyongyang-Wonsan motorway, while a nearby military airfield might be turned into an airport to handle an anticipated surge in tourists.
KCNA quoted Kim as saying that once the resort is completed, “A skiing wave will seize the country.”
The North Korean leader also ordered the domestic production of skiing equipment and clothing as sanctions imposed on the regime by the United Nations in the wake of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes forbid imports of luxury goods.
Kim is a known fan of basketball but spent seven years at international schools near the Swiss city of Berne from 1993, where he may have picked up an interest in skiing.
The Kim clan is also reported to have held family holidays at the mountain resort town of Interlaken.
Plans to construct a world-class skiing facility at the Masik Pass site may also have been motivated by the South Korean city of Pyeongchang emerging in 2011 as the host of the 2018 Winter Olypmics. When South Korea was named as the joint host of the 2002 World Cup with Japan, the North immediately went on a public relations offensive and opened its borders to permit foreign visitors to attend the choreographed manoeuvres of thousands of citizens taking place in the Arirang Festival.
Pyongyang was further piqued when a proposal by a liberal South Korean politician to share the 2018 Winter Olympics with the North as a gesture of goodwill was ignored.