May 17, 2022

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In search for miracles and substitutes: reform in the DPRK

Masik Pass, the latest in a long line of quick fix solutions.

The course of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is often referred to as being radically different from his father and grandfather. One of the oft cited examples is the construction of Masik Pass Ski Resort—a project which is expected to shame Switzerland and Thailand, and make foreign tourists flock to North Korea with heaps of coveted foreign currency (that is sure to end up in the DPRK’s treasury). In the view of many foreign observers, this idea sounds rather different to the allegedly less ambitious projects exposed by Kim’s predecessors, such as the development of nuclear weapons.

In actual fact, the Masik Pass project fits quite well into an established practice of the North Korean leadership. They have always had a weak spot for ‘miracle’ technical solutions to complex structural problems. From time to time, the North Korean people find themselves mobilized for grand projects; which are endorsed by the Leader, but are not backed up by proper technical expertise, and either produce little of what is hoped for or make matters worse.