Sheldon Adelson wants to open a casino in North Korea

Kim Jong Un in Sheldon Adelson’s Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
Kim Jong Un in Sheldon Adelson’s Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
Image: EPA/Mast Irham
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After his historic summit with Kim Jong Un last month, Donald Trump noted the business potential of North Korea, as seen from a property developer’s point of view. Speaking to reporters, he said, “Think of it from a real estate perspective. You have South Korea, you have China, and they own the land in the middle. How bad is that, right? It’s great.”

Late last month, Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and friend of Trump’s, also made reference to North Korea’s economic potential, according to a report yesterday (July 8) in Casino News Daily. Speaking at a charity event in Jerusalem, Adelson said he hoped Trump would get the North and South to end the Korean War, of which he was a veteran, so that he could go there again—this time not to fight, but to open up one of his casinos.

Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands and is worth over $40 billion, according to Forbes. He is also a major donor to the Republican party, doling out $5 million (paywall) to the committee organizing Trump’s inauguration festivities—the largest single contribution of its kind ever given.

While he was Singapore for the summit, Kim visited tourist sites, notably Marina Bay Sands, a hotel-casino owned by Adelson, and photos of his tour were later splashed across the country’s state-run papers. While North Korea has faced a ratcheting of sanctions in response to its weapons tests, tourism is not targeted by international sanctions. It is an important source of hard cash for the Kim regime, one the young leader is trying to develop.

Kim has ordered the completion of his country’s Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist zone by next April. Located on the east coast about 180 km (112 miles) from Pyongyang, the district will lure foreign tourists, including those from South Korea and China.

Over the weekend, secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited North Korea for talks on denuclearization. After he left, Pyongyang criticized the talks, accusing the US of “gangster-like” behavior. Pompeo brushed that off, while admitting the denuclearization process is a challenge. But he pointed to the economic “miracle” in Vietnam since that country normalized relations with the US in 1995.

Speaking to the US-Vietnamese business community in Hanoi on Sunday, he said, “In light of the once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership we have with Vietnam today, I have a message for chairman Kim Jong Un: President Trump believes your country can replicate this path.”

When Trump met with Kim last month, he showed him a video promoting the economic promise of North Korea, with speedboats and skyscrapers. He told reporters later: “As an example they have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo? And I explained, I said, you know, instead of doing that you could have the best hotels in the world right there.”