LONDON – North Korean authorities expect that 5,000 people will visit the Masik-ryong Ski resort each day – 250 days per year – once construction is completed, a planning document seen by NK News reveals.
Charging $50 per person, the People’s Committee in Kangwon Province and DPRK Ministry of Sports anticipate a net revenue stream of $62.5 million from the ski resort per year, of which $43.75 million will be profit.
The planning document says that North Korean customers from nearby provinces will form the backbone of anticipated demand, followed by international tourists from “surrounding nations”.
“We also plan to host the Asian or international competitions, or hold business matches and to invite many ski fans and cheering enthusiasts,” the document says in a passage detailing the predicted income.
But at $50 per day the ski resort entry fee is extremely expensive for the average North Korean, who the CIA World Factbook estimates earns just $1800 per year.
Despite the apparent contradiction, the planning document cites million dollar profit projections to convince foreign investors to help fund infrastructure for the resort, including ski-lifts, entertainment facilities, and unspecified “operation technology”.
“Masik-ryong Ski Resort is going to increase to the maximum, the multiplicative and accelerant effectiveness of the investments by introducing energy-cycling technology and constant development operation strategy, which are the world trends in designing and operation management”, the planners claim.
Chris Green, Manager of International Affairs at the Daily NK, says the project is “pie in the sky” and indicative of dubious North Korean business planning practices.
“This is classic North Korea. 1) Attract foreign currency while 2) providing plausible evidence of development that 3) placates some North Koreans that their country is in the same ballpark as South Korea or China,” he told NK News.
While the planning document says that the resort is being built to “improve” the “material and cultural lives of the people,” the push to build the massive ski resort comes just one year after South Korea was awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics to be hosted at Pyeongchang. Some experts suggest that the Masik-ryong development plans are intrinsically linked.
“As usual, North Koreans are trying to outperform their southern neighbors by over-investing in ideologically important mega-projects”, said Leonid Petrov, a North Korea expert at Australia National University. “The outcome is likely to be usual too. Masik ski resort will be used by the regime for buying the loyalty of the elites, while sending the message of achieved affluence and happiness to the common people,” he added.
But given the scale of the Masik-ryong Ski resort plans, it is possible that North Korea might use the prestige project to justify a bid to co-host the Winter Olympics with South Korea.
“I think a push for co-hosting is possible, but not necessarily sincere: Masikryeong won’t meet International Olympic Committee standards anyway,” Chris Green told NK News.
Aside from profit forecasts, the planning document also reveals interesting details about the scope of development at the Masik-ryong ski resort.
Part one of the authorities’ plan, scheduled for completion by the end of 2013, is to complete the building of a junior level ski course and four “high-level ski runways”, a hotel, ski service halls, ski school, ski kindergarten, children’s snow park and children’s skating ground.
Before the end of the year the North Korean developers also hope to build “a combined lift, two surface lifts, one moving carpet and other equipment and facilities.”
Stage two, which will kick off in 2014, aims to build one sleigh course and seven medium-level and high-level ski courses, a terrace park, a ski park, a children’s skating ground, snow park and “various four season playgrounds and amusement facilities”.
Furthermore, the planning document says that Masikryong will be an environment-friendly ski resort, powered “entirely through windmills and solar-energy roofs”.
Since being announced to the nation, North Korean propagandists have regularly reported on progress at Masikryong frequently on TV, radio, and newspapers. The construction site has also been visited by key leadership figures, including Kim Jong Un.
Recent reports suggested that construction at Masik-ryong had been seriously set back due to heavy rains. But North Korean media quickly hit-back, with the Rodong Sinmun saying that soldiers had installed “all kinds of facilities” to ensure work could continue “regardless of heavy rains”.
The fast-pace of construction at the ski resort has been hailed by North Korea’s propagandists as a new “Masik speed,” a term now used by state media to describe any project needing urgent completion.