Home World Inside North Korea's 'empty' £24m ski resort visited by only a handful...

Inside North Korea's 'empty' £24m ski resort visited by only a handful of Russians

The growing special relationship between Moscow and Pyongyang has resulted in an unexpected perk for some Russians – the ability to visit a North Korean ski resort.

Since the beginning of 2024, around 200 Russians have accessed the Masikryong ski resort, some 12 miles outside of Wonsan City on the eastern coast of North Korea.

The resort, reportedly built in just 10 months and thought to have cost around £24million, includes pristine ski slopes, polished hotel rooms, a swimming pool, a sauna and a massage area among other amenities.

Launched in 2014, it was part of a drive devised by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to get one million foreign tourists per year into the hermit country by 2016.

Prior to 2020, an estimated 5,000 Westerners visited North Korea every year as part of strictly guided and pre-planned tours.

Following the coronavirus pandemic, however, this plan crumbled as the North Korean leadership hermetically shut down its borders and has only slowly begun to allow a selected few foreigners back in earlier this year.

The trip undertaken by the Russians who were granted a very restricted peak into the North Korean territory came at around £600, the Observer reported.

This price covered the round trip airfare from Vladivostok to Pyongyang, the domestic flight to the ski resort, the hotel stay and meals, while the £31.6 daily ski pass and other extras such as cigarettes and alcohol would need to be forked out in cash.

The four-day holiday also included a propaganda-filled visit upon arrival in the North Korean capital to Kim Il-sung Square and a youth musical performance at Mangyongdae Children’s Palace.

While the ski pistes are public, the Russian visitors noted they were eerily empty and lacked the presence of the local population.

The tourists, closely watched by government “minders”, could not wander off alone nor film ordinary houses of locals.

But despite the strict control the tourists were placed under, some were still able to catch a glimpse of real life under the Kim regime.

Speaking about her experience, Olga Shpalok told the Observer: “You could sense hopelessness and constant control in the country during the entire trip.”

The few locals she saw during her trip, she claimed, looked “short and hungry”, while some children were “barely dressed” despite the freezing temperatures.

Relationships between Russia, shunned by the West following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and North Korea were bolstered in September following an in-person meeting between Kim and Vladimir Putin.

North Korea is now widely believed to be providing Russia with ammunition to be used in Ukraine in exchange for food and tech needed to pursue Pyongyang military tests among other materials.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here