North Korea's Controversial Ski Resort Now Open For Business

North Korea's Controversial Ski Resort Now Open

North Korea, a country that still doesn't have stoplights, now boasts its own ski resort.

The Masik Pass ski area, located in Kangwon province in southeastern North Korea, opened its doors to the public on Jan. 1, according to CNN. The ski hill has nine runs, and a day-pass costs about $34, according to Yonhap News.

Leader Kim Jong Un, who is thought to have picked up skiing while attending high school in Switzerland, had a few hotels built around the ski mountain for tourists, and at least one of them is currently open: The 120-room Masikrong hotel, a lavish lodge, comes complete with hot tubs, saunas and an 80-foot swimming pool, according to Koryo Tours' Simon Cockerell, who has photos of the accommodations and the ski mountain on the group's blog.

But the pretty pictures of the sunny North Korean ski resort belie the grim reality of what even Switzerland has called "a propaganda project." North Korea can't feed its own citizens; yet, Kim put the pedal to the metal for this project in the hopes of increasing tourism in the area, the Associated Press reported in October.

Doing so wasn't easy. The Hermit Kingdom's young dictator went through a good deal of international wrangling to import Masik's ski lifts, which are considered a "luxury good" by the Western nations that manufacture them and were, therefore, subject to a United Nations blockade that was imposed in March as a way to curb the Hermit Kingdom's nuclear program.

However, Kim may consider the opening of Masik a victory. A photo of the young dictator riding one of the new ski lifts in December was interpreted by some as thumbing his nose at Europe, which Kim claimed had committed a "human rights abuse" by denying his country the lifts.

Before You Go

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