North Korea probably isn’t number one on your winter ski-trip list — mainly because going there is near impossible for Americans — but that doesn’t mean that the reclusive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is totally opposed to tourism. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Kim Jong Un inaugurated a new mountain spa and ski resort on December 7 in an attempt to revitalize the country’s struggling economy.
Kim officially cut the ribbon during the ceremonial opening of the Yangdok Hot Spring Cultural Recreation Center, which includes hotels, hot spring spas, ski slopes, and a horse-riding park. Pomp and circumstance are commonplace at North Korean public events, and the opening of this resort was no exception. Thousands of soldiers were present, along with civilians waving the nation’s flag.
According to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, the country’s leader “hardly repressed his happiness, saying that it has become possible to provide people with new culture, and one more plan of the Party to make our people enjoy high civilization under socialism as early as possible has come true.”
Although the UN imposed heavy sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missiles program, tourism is excluded from those sanctions, making it a significant way of recouping financial losses. North Korea is also dipping its toes into the waters of medical tourism and will soon supposedly offer medical services to foreign visitors (mostly from China), treatments such as cataract surgery, dental implants, and therapy for tumors.