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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Masik Pass Open for (Foreign) Business

by | January 26th, 2014 | 07:00 am
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After officially opening on January 1st, Koryo Tours has declared that the Masik Pass ski resort is ready to host foreign tourists. You can now tack a two-night side trip to Masik onto your tour package for an additional 290 Euros (plus equipment rentals and a lift ticket).

The guides at Koryo have also provided a more in-depth description of their Masik Pass experience here. By their account, the resort shaped up nicely: nine runs, a fancy hotel chock-full of bars and fine dining, and an army of “trainers” ready to personally chauffeur you around on Canadian Ski-Doos (luxury import sanctions be damned!). Oh yes, and internet connectivity — Koryo makes a big deal that you can “tweet from the middle of North Korea” for $0.20 a minute.

As One Free Korea and others have pointed out, a $300 million ski resort is a bit of a slap in the face to most North Koreans. Of the roughly 200 people the Koryo guides observed using the resort, they happened to run into both Dennis Rodman as well as few members of the Moranbong Band. Maybe this is selection bias– the guides could have run into plenty of factory workers and farmers expressing great reverence for the egalitarian paradise the great leader has bequeathed and chose not to write about it. To us it seems a great example of the project’s true target customers: foreigners and North Korea’s wealthy and connected who can afford 30 Euro lift tickets.

Perhaps we’re too hard on central planners. This is a state investment project that could yield profit in the future right, right? Well, currently daily turnout is 1/25 of what was projected. At the rate of 200 patrons per day (given each spends a very generous 100 Euros total and the resort operates 150 days a year), that’s only 73 years to recoup the initial investment, not taking into account pesky details like the present value of capital. On the other hand, Masik has only been open less than a month. Perhaps with an increase in tourism, a rapprochement in North-South relations, and more North Koreans entering the middle class, Kim Jong Un’s winter wonderland may only have been a marginal waste of valuable resources.

Check out the video below of a ski instructor sampling one of the sparsely populated runs, coasting all the way down to the 120-room Masikrong Hotel. If after this you too feel the need for Masik speed, we’ve got a tip for the novice skiers: learn your “pizza pies” and “french fries” fast, because reportedly there’s a hundred-foot cliff at the bottom of the bunny slope.

 

Comments (7)

Wrong Michael, Roland. Good attempt to besmirch me, though. Thanks for playing!

Michael January 27, 2014 | 3:11 am

Reply

Michael, my “innocence” and independence is NSA-proofed.
I agree with you, that scientific approach requests dealing only with facts and not with rumors and speculations.
So it was surprising to learn, Michael Madden yesterday bought the Jang-family purging story with Yonhap. Maybe it´s true, maybe not. If not, spreading a rumor for true will cost him a lot of credibility.

Roland January 27, 2014 | 12:46 am

Reply

I’ll avoid suppositions if you deal with the reality of North Korea.

Michael January 26, 2014 | 3:50 pm

Reply

Michael, please stay away from personal suppositions and keep on with factual arguments.
One should know, that recently only phase 1 of the masik resort has been finished. This year phase 2 with accomodations for school children will be driven forth. One goal is to shape a ski pool, which finally can compete for expl. in olympics.

Roland January 26, 2014 | 3:14 pm

Reply

So, Roland, which tour company or pro-NK group do you work with?

Michael January 26, 2014 | 1:47 pm

Reply

Good grief we will now see useful idiot tourists rushing to go ski at this resort… Shame on them, and shame on the shady tour companies that make money off of this, while enriching the regime…

Hank Song January 26, 2014 | 11:47 am

Reply

Kevin, estimation of 300 Million US $ ist (sorry) nothing but hot air. The resort was build by army conscripts – and those people cost: nothing.
Interesting, that Koryo tours met some Moranbong-girls, which should have been shot some weeks ago – rumors/psyop told us.
Actually the first six US-American tourists are skiing there with Uri Tours.

Roland January 26, 2014 | 10:24 am

Reply

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