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Kim's 'world class' ski resort: Would you ski in North Korea?

By Frances Cha, CNN
May 28, 2013 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
North Korea media reports said Kim Jong Un provided guidance on how to build the ski resort.
North Korea media reports said Kim Jong Un provided guidance on how to build the ski resort.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • North Korea is building what it calls a "world-class" ski resort
  • Kim Jong Un "greatly pleased" with construction progress
  • Resort will be open to foreign tourists, says North Korea tour company

(CNN) -- We're guessing this is going to end up on a lot of "world's most dangerous ski runs" lists. But probably for a different reason than any of the other entries.

North Korea is building a "world class" ski resort on Masik hill in Wonsan with a range of ski runs and a hotel, according to the North Korean state news agency.

Located in Kangwon Province, Masik hill is 2,520 feet (768 meters) high and typically receives heavy snowfall from early November through early March.

Construction underway

Map: Proposed Masik ski resort  Map: Proposed Masik ski resort
Map: Proposed Masik ski resortMap: Proposed Masik ski resort
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A series of photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking with his staff in front of the ski resort site was released this week.

The accompanying news report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency said the young leader dropped by to get a firsthand report on the progress of construction.

"He was greatly satisfied to learn that soldier-builders have constructed a skiing area on mountain ranges covering hundreds of thousands of square meters, including primary, intermediate and advanced courses with almost 110,000 meters (68.3 miles) in total length and 40-120 meters (131-394 feet) in width," said the KCNA report.

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The new resort will be accessible from the Pyongyang-Wonsan tourist motorway and will feature a hotel, heliport and "cableway."

Kim, who was partly educated in Switzerland, appears to be familiar with ski resort operations.

"He said it is necessary to build 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," said the report.

According to the report, Kim also emphasized environmental conservation: "He underlined the need to preserve the ecological environment and prevent pollution while building the skiing ground."

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Would you go?

According to a tour agency specializing in North Korean travel, the new resort will be open to foreign tourists.

"We've known of the plans for this development for a couple of years -- work only began recently though and I've seen the basic plans just last week," said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours.

Cockerell returned last week from the first Western tour of the North Korean border town of Sinuiju.

No opening date has been given for the opening of the resort.

South Korean media covered the news of the resort in critical fashion.

"The fact that North Korea is spending exorbitant amounts of money building a ski resort while its people and even its military don't have enough to eat shows that this is just a move to advertise the image of Kim Jong Un as a leader who cares about his people," an anonymous North Korean defector told NK News, a South Korea-based media company specializing in North Korean news.

The defector also said that existing ski infrastructure in North Korea is used exclusively for military purposes, and that there's a high likelihood this will also be the case with the new resort.

How to travel to North Korea

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