Despite that less than 0.02 percent of its impoverished citizens are skiers, North Korea has put a lavish ski resort in Masik Pass on the fast track. Some believe it's related to South Korea hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018.
The Associated Press reported
Monday that Masik's ski runs, which are currently long stretches of bright-brown dirt dotted with rocks, weeds and patches of grass, will be transformed soon, as two ski lifts have been installed.
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Masik Pass ski resort is North Korea's latest big project that workers have spent the past 10 months on.
The complex of ski runs, resort chalets, and sleigh rides was scheduled to open Thursday. But late last month, the main hotels appeared to need more work, according to the Associated Press.
North Korean ski official Kim Tae Yong said that there are about 5,500 skiers in the country of 24 million, which comprises 0.02 percent of the population.
The ski resort is being pressed to open as its neighbor South Korea prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
North Korea's International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Chang Ung suggested that the North's Masik ski resort could host some Olympic events. But South Korea officials decided that sharing events with the restrictive North Korea would be a logistical nightmare.
Ung acknowledged that some co-hosting would be a "complicated matter requiring discussions with the IOC and the International Ski Federation."
Current sanctions against North Korea have made completing the ski resort difficult. For example, Switzerland shut down a deal for a Swiss company to sell North Korea $7.7 million of ski-lifts and cable car equipment because of international sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program. The same is true for Austrian and French ski-lift manufacturers.
North Korea's state-run media called Switzerland's decision a "serious human rights abuse that politicizes sports and discriminates against the Koreans."
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