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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea appears to be making progress on upgrades to accommodation at its marquee Masikryong ski resort southwest of Wonsan, recent footage published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) showed.
Construction on the new buildings at the ski resort was first reported by NK Pro in October, with exclusive images at the time revealing that advanced work had been undertaken on multiple structures to the northwest of the main hotel complex.
Planet Labs satellite imagery and footage recently published by KCNA show that roofing has since been added to the buildings, however, it is unclear if the structures are as yet fully completed.
According to one individual involved in the DPRK tourism industry, the buildings — located 250 meters from the main resort — are indeed intended to expand the capacity of the ski resort, but are meant to only accommodate domestic tourists.
“I was told by the manager of the resort that Masikryong has proven to be very popular with the locals so the new accommodation will be for locals only, making more room for foreign tourists,” Rowan Beard of Young Pioneer Tours told NK News on Tuesday.
This means, he added, that “the new accommodation will be more of a lower standard quality, leaving the higher class accommodation for foreign tourists.”
While small in comparison to other developments nearby in Wonsan, the expansion of Masikryong’s infrastructure is consistent with North Korea’s push towards building up its tourist attractions and infrastructure.
In Wonsan itself, North Korea has embarked on an expansive and ambitious tourism-related construction project that has been personally visited multiple times by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018.
That construction site features over 170 new buildings and featured in Kim’s annual New Year’s speech.
“The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should turn out to…complete on the highest possible level the construction projects that would represent the present era, including the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area and other new tourist areas,” he said.
While comparatively much smaller, Masikryong — completed in 2014 — represented one of the leader’s first marquee construction projects.
North Korean authorities had initially hoped the project would attract over 5000 guests per day, though initial tourist numbers were reportedly much lower.
A Development Project planning document for the resort, obtained by NK News in 2013, revealed the total projected cost of constructing the resort to be in excess of 120 million euros (USD$150 million).
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA, edited by NK News