THE HOT WIND OF SPORTS

Creepily perfect pictures from North Korea, the sport and leisure capital of the world

North Korea has been on a building binge since its young leader, Kim Jung Un, came into office. Some of his top priority projects? A ski resort, a “miniature world” park that includes replicas of London’s Big Ben and France’s Eiffel Tower, and basketball courts, skating rinks and video arcades around the capitol, Pyongyang.

On one hand, these trappings of western recreation are likely meant to show the outside world how progressive—and fun!—of a country is North Korea. On the other, it’s probable the parks are equally important for improving how the country looks from the inside. Over the past few months, the North Korean government has been encouraging citizens to get more interested in sports, in hopes recreation will energize and mobilize the populace. Officials have called this “the hot wind of sports blowing through Korea.”

The majority of the North Korean population will likely never set foot in the planned luxury ski resort or fly in a plane leaving from Pyongyang’s new airport. But there is a small and growing population of North Koreans earning money from the underground economy who are able to spend on small luxuries that could include a videogame or two.

Here are some photos of the government’s efforts to bring recreation to the masses, including a new water park that appears to have now opened, according to state media photos released earlier this week.

A building dedication ceremony takes place at The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) October 16, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX14DHI
North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency released this undated photo of an opening ceremony of the Munsu Water Park. (Reuters/KCNA)
Spectators watch people use The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) October 16, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX14DHE
(Reuters/KCNA)
Spectators watch people use The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) October 16, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX14DHH
(Reuters/KCNA)
Spectators watch people use The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) October 16, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX14DHC
(Reuters/KCNA)
People use The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) October 16, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX14DHG
(Reuters/KCNA)
Spectators watch people use The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) October 16, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX14DHD
North Koreans test out 3D glasses as they prepare to watch a 3D movie on an amusement park ride at the Rungna People's Pleasure Park in Pyongyang on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
Locals watch a 3D movie at the Rungna People’s Pleasure Park in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
HOLD FOR STORY: NORTH KOREA SLIPPERY SLOPE BY ERIC TALMADGE - In this Sunday Sept. 22, 2013 photo, North Koreans wait in line to enter the bumper car ride at the Pyongyang Pleasure park in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports in the country, both at the elite and recreational levels, as a means of energizing and mobilizing the masses. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
Pyongyang residents playing bumper carts. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
HOLD FOR STORY: NORTH KOREA SLIPPERY SLOPE BY ERIC TALMADGE  -In this Thursday Sept. 19, 2013 photo, North Koreans roller-skate at a newly built recreational park in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports in the country, both at the elite and recreational levels, as a means of energizing and mobilizing the masses. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
Children skate at a newly built recreation park in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
HOLD FOR STORY: NORTH KOREA SLIPPERY SLOPE BY ERIC TALMADGE  - In this Thursday Sept. 19, 2013 photo, North Korean men play tennis at a newly built recreational park in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports in the country, both at the elite and recreational levels, as a means of energizing and mobilizing the masses. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
A man plays tennis at a new park in Pyongyang (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
HOLD FOR STORY: NORTH KOREA SLIPPERY SLOPE BY ERIC TALMADGE  - In this Aug. 23, 2013 photo, North Korean propaganda stands at the base of a ski slope at a ski resort building project at North Korea's Masik Pass. The sign reads, from left to right, "Full Attack. March Forward. Let's Absolutely Finish Building Masik Pass Ski Resort Within This Year By Launching A Full Aggressive War and Full Battle." (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
A sign near construction of the Masik Ski Resort reads: “Full attack. March forward. Let’s absolutely finish building Masik Pass Ski Resort within this year by launching a full aggressive war and full battle.” (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon))
In this Friday Sept. 20, 2013 photo, an unfinished hotel complex stands at the bottom of a mountain slope at the ski resort construction project at North Korea's Masik Pass. This is the Masik Pass ski resort, North Korea’s latest megaproject, the product of 10 months of furious labor intended to show the world that this country, so often derided for its poverty and isolation, is as civilized and culturally advanced as any other. North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports in the country, calling it "the hot wind of sports blowing through Korea." (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
The multi-million dollar ski resort is meant to include hotels, ​cable cars, and a helipad, It was slated to open on Oct, 10 (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this Friday Sept. 20, 2013 photo, a North Korean soldier passes by a ski slope under construction at North Korea's Masik Pass. The signs on the slope together reads "Burning Hope." North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports in the country, calling it "the hot wind of sports blowing through Korea." (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
Pyongyang recently accused Switzerland of “serious human rights abuse” for refusing to sell North Korea a ski lift. The country has been unable to buy ski lifts because of international sanctions placed on the country. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
A woman in traditional Korean costume watches as a student leaves a swimming pool of Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang April 11, 2012.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip   (NORTH KOREA - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY) - RTR30LAG
A swimming pool at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang. (Reuters/KCNA)
Synchronized swimmers perform during an event to celebrate the birth anniversary of North Korean late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang February 15, 2013, in this picture provided by Kyodo. The birth anniversary of the late leader Kim falls on Saturday.   Mandatory Credit.   REUTERS/Kyodo (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SOCIETY) MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR3DU7T
Synchronized swimmers perform during a celebration for the birthday of the late Kim Jong-il. (Reuters/Kyodo)
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