Swedish surprise art N.Korean ski luxury

2014-01-06 09:21
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un  inspects a ski resort on Masik Pass to be completed in Kangwon province. Kim Jong-Un visited the newly completed ski resort and ordered officials to open his pet project to the public as soon as possible, state media

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects a ski resort on Masik Pass to be completed in Kangwon province. Kim Jong-Un visited the newly completed ski resort and ordered officials to open his pet project to the public as soon as possible, state media (KNS/KCNA/AFP)

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Stockholm - When North Korea's state media this week issued pictures of leader Kim Jong-Un visiting a new ski field he ordered built, one firm in Sweden couldn't believe what it was seeing.

Its snow cannon were being used to coat the slopes of the Masik Pass Ski Resort in white -- despite EU sanctions meant to prevent impoverished North Korea getting its hands on luxury goods and equipment.

"I have no idea how they turned up in North Korea. We did not sell them directly to North Korea," the chief of the Areco company, Johan Erling, told Friday's edition of the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Kim on Tuesday took a ride up a ski lift in the resort, a pet project he had built with "lightning speed" and which he claimed was "the centre of the world's attention", North Korean state media reported.

Pictures of the resort showed some of its reported 110 kilometres of ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars -- and, in some of them, Areco's snow cannon.

Erling said he was surprised by the evidence, and on Thursday called Areco's reseller in China, who assured him "he hadn't sold snow cannon there".

The machines were therefore likely second-hand and difficult to trace, Erling concluded.

The North Korean resort already made headlines in August when Switzerland blocked a $7.6 million (R71.5m at R10.68/dollar) sale of ski lifts to Pyongyang, calling it a "propaganda project" for the Stalinist regime.

But North Korea's rotund leader has been undeterred in trying to portray his country as host of a string of "world-class" leisure parks.

In October, Kim opened a water park complex with indoor and outdoor pools, slides and saunas. In September, he watched films at a new "4D" movie theatre in a renovated amusement park, where he also rode a roller coaster.

The Swiss-educated leader, aged around 30, took over North Korea when his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong-Il, died in December 2011.

The European Union has sanctions on North Korea designed to block European-made luxury items being used to further Pyongyang's propaganda. The export ban applies to ski, golfing, diving and watersports equipment and articles.

Read more on:    north korea  |  travel  |  travel international

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