Newly manufactured Canadian snowmobiles, Swedish snow-blowers and Italian and German snow cats have all been spotted at North Korea’s recently opened Masik Ski resort, raising concerns that UN Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from purchasing “luxury goods” have been broken.
The equipment, clearly visible in pictures released by North Korean state media, has appeared just months after ski equipment manufacturer Bartholet Maschinenbau AG Flums was blocked from completing a $7.5million ski lift deal with North Korea.
While Switzerland’s Federal Council blocked the ski-lift company from providing Pyongyang with “infrastructure and equipment for sports facilities with a luxury character,” it appears that North Korea was able to evade UN sanctions blocking the acquisition of luxury goods by obtaining ski-resort equipment from other international providers.
A “Ski-Doo” Snowmobile manufactured by Canadian owned Bombardier Recreational Products & Vehicles was visible in pictures circulated by AFP, while at least seven snow blowers produced by Sweden’s Areco and two snow ploughs produced by Italy’s Prinoth were visible in pictures released Thursday. A further snow plough produced by Germany’s Pisten Bully was also visible.
“On the face of it snowmobiles are clearly luxury goods and so their sale to the DPRK is banned by the UN Security Council. If they are not on the banned list of the relevant exporting country, they should be,” one UN sanctions expert who requested anonymity told NK News.
“Switzerland determined that equipment for a ski resort was banned, so this would include snow ploughs too,” the expert added.
Although UN sanctions prohibit member states from providing “luxury goods” to North Korea, no list of proscribed goods has ever been published by the international body, making international implementation of the rules particularly difficult, the expert underscored.
But following North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test the European Union published a list of “luxury goods” that were banned from transfer to Pyongyang. This list specifically included “Articles and equipment for skiing, golf, diving and water sports” and “Luxury vehicles for the transport of persons on earth, air or sea, as well as their accessories and spare parts”.
The EU list would mean that Sweden’s Areco, Italy’s Prinoth and Germany’s Pisten Bully may have broken regional and UN regulations on the provision of luxury goods to North Korea.
CEO of Areco Johan Erling told NK News that he had “no idea” how at least seven Areco snow canons had turned up in North Korea, pointing out they could have been supplied in contravention of EU regulations through any number of intermediaries, formal or informal.
Erling said that the seven snow blowers pictured by KCNA, known as the Areco Supersnow, cost anything between $23,000 to 37,000 per unit, depending on automatic / manual configuration.
But how North Korea could have acquired so many without his company knowing was beyond him, Erling said. Areco sells around 40 units per year to its Chinese reseller and the units pictured in North Korea are no more than 1.5 years old, Erling explained.
The Italian produced snow cats visible in the picture published by KCNA are the Prinoth BR350 (yellow unit) and Prinoth Bison X (silver). Snow cats are snow ploughs built especially for use on ski pistes.
A previously owned BR350, first produced in 2006, is currently selling on a Canadian website for $80,000 while the Bison X, first produced in 2008, has a higher market value.
The red snow cat is a Pisten Bully unit, made in Germany. Units like the one pictured can be found online from $116,000.
Neither Prinorth, Bombardier Recreational Products & Vehicles or Pisten Bully could be reached for comment about the transfer of equipment to North Korea.
Bjørn-Erik Skjærvik, a Norwegian snowmobile reseller, told NK News that the unit pictured by AFP is the Skidoo GT550, produced in either 2011, 2012 or 2013. The GT series retail between $7500 – $12,000 per unit.
Ski experts told NK News that the brands North Korea purchased its equipment from are leading companies in the ski industry.
However, the ski lift that Kim Jong Un was pictured riding on Sunday appears to be of vintage quality, with only two seats instead of the industry standard of four.
Normally ski lifts with two seats are only found at non-commercial resorts.
In August NK News revealed that North Korean authorities expect that 5,000 people will visit the Masik-ryong Ski resort each day – 250 days per year – once construction was completed.
Charging $50 per person, the People’s Committee in Kangwon Province and DPRK Ministry of Sports anticipated a net revenue stream of $62.5 million from the ski resort per year, of which $43.75 million will be profit.
Some observers say that the Masik Pass ski resort will not benefit the general public of North Korea, despite a planning document that says North Korean customers from nearby provinces will form the backbone of anticipated demand.
Additional reporting: Frank Feinstein, Leo Byrne and Ole Jakob Skåtun
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