A lot of media attention was drawn this week to Kim Jong-un’s visit to the “Masik Pass Skiing Ground,” under construction on the east coast. This, however, is not the DPRK’s first foray into skiing. The DPRK’s first ski run is a simple downhill slope at the resort town of Samjiyon–in the far north east in the shadow of Mt. Paektu (pictured above).
Of course, this would only qualify as a “bunny slope” to foreign skiers and is certainly not worth the trip to ski there (except for the novelty of skiing in the DPRK).
The new Masik Pass Skiing Grounds under construction in Ryongjo-ri, Popdong County, however, promises to be much more–a proper, full-scale ski resort. Here is what KCNA had to say:
[Kim Jong Un] said the skiing ground is located in the best place as it ensures a long period of skiing and it is easy to have access to it with the Pyongyang-Wonsan tourist motorway available nearby.
He learned about progress made in the construction of objects such as skiing gatepost, hotel, skiing apparatuses storehouse, heliport and cableway. He climbed the peak of the skiing ground more than 1 360 meters above the sea level.
Making a bird’s-eye view of the skiing ground, he said it is nice to see it, but it would be more fantastic to watch the ground covered with snow.
He indicated tasks and ways for hastening the construction of the skiing ground.
He noted that it is the firm determination of the Party to build the skiing ground into a world class one.
He called on the soldier-builders to accelerate the construction so that the skiing ground may go operational from the coming winter.
He gave instructions to properly build a drainage system to prevent the courses from being washed away by rain in the rainy season and plant turf of good species suitable for that area so as to keep the courses in good shape even after thaw.
He said it is necessary to build well not only rest places but first- aid stations at starting, middle and final points of the courses and establish an automatic cableway monitoring system for a real time watch so as to take measures to prevent accidents.
He underlined the need to preserve ecological environment and prevent pollution while building the skiing ground.
He called for properly setting up a unit for operating the ground and scrupulously organizing its management from now while pushing ahead with the construction, and taking measures for the production of skis and other winter sports apparatuses.
He called on the relevant field to supply equipment and materials needed for construction in a responsible manner and pay deep attention to this work.
Though the publicly available satellite imagery of the site is too old to see the new slopes, it is new enough that we can properly identify the location. Below is a comparison of images from KCTV and Google Earth:
One could argue that the construction of a new skiing resort is a strategic move to attract more foreign tourists (and hard currency), however, this need not be the case.
One of Kim Jong Un’s definable domestic policy initiatives is the improvement of leisure facilities in the DPRK as a tool to raise the peoples’ standard of living.
Since the death of Kim Jong-il, the new leadership has focused on the construction and renovation of parks, skate parks, amusement parks, folk parks, and even a dolphin aquarium.