Kim Jong-un’s $300 million ski resort boondoggle is really, truly, almost finished

Kim Jong-un rides a chairlift.
Kim Jong-un rides a chairlift.
Image: Rodong Sinmun
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Despite all of the purges and executions of family members that have kept Kim Jong-un busy lately, the North Korean leader still found time for a New Year’s Eve visit to his beloved Masik Pass ski resort, which he vowed to have finished before the new year began. Kim ordered officials to open his pet project as soon as possible “to ensure people can fully enjoy skiing,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

During an earlier visit on Dec. 15, Kim boasted that the resort—labeled a propaganda project by the Swiss government, which blocked the sale of ski lifts to North Korea earlier this year under luxury goods sanctions—would be “at the center of the world’s attention.” The world’s attention, however, was directed at the ousting and execution of his once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, just a few days earlier. Notably, Pak Myong-chol—a sports official with ties to Jang—was at Kim’s side today, suggesting that Kim has been selective in purging his uncle’s former cronies.

Masik Pass is the latest in a long line of North Korea’s dubious showcase projects like a massive water park and horseback riding club, which are often completed in a mad dash by “shock brigades” of soldiers. The ski resort is already running behind schedule due to torrential rains and landslides earlier this year, and has cost an estimated $300 million.

Kim reputedly acquired a taste for alpine sports when he was studying at a private school in Switzerland. If and when the Masik Pass resort opens, it remains to be seen whether his prowess on the slopes will match his father’s skill on the golf course: The late Kim Jong-il reportedly shot an astounding 38 under par with 11 holes in one during his inaugural outing, and then promptly retired from the game.