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Threat of a ‘Horrible Disaster’ Is No Way for North Korea to Obtain a Ski Lift

In this Aug. 23, 2013 photo, North Korean soldiers work on at building project to construct a ski resort at North Korea's Masik Pass. North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports in the country, both at the elite and recreational levels, as a means of energizing and mobilizing the masses, which North Korea’s slogan spinners are calling
Photo: Kim Kwang Hyon

In North Korea’s latest bout of anti-U.S. saber rattling, the seemingly always-hostile nation put its army on alert and warned of “disastrous consequences,” in response to the United States moving ships into a South Korean port. “The U.S. will be wholly accountable for the unexpected horrible disaster to be met by its imperialist aggression forces’ nuclear strike means,” a government statement said, according to Reuters. The North often uses this kind of language in its missives to the West, but the timing on this one makes the reclusive state headed by Kim Jong-un look even more like a petulant child than usual. North Korea is simultaneously pissed no Western countries would sell it a ski lift, an affront it called “a serious human rights abuse.”

The North announced on Monday that it was nearing completion of a luxury ski resort, presumably for the 0.02 percent of its population who ski. But sanctions introduced this year have made it impossible for the country to buy ski lifts from the primarily Western manufacturers of the technology. “This is an intolerable mockery of the social system and the people of the DPRK and a serious human rights abuse that politicizes sports and discriminates against the Koreans,” a statement on the official broadcaster KCNA complained in August.

The Masik Pass ski resort is due to formally open Thursday, but they haven’t solved the lift problem. “Though two simple lifts have been installed, neither was working during a recent visit by journalists,” the Associated Press reported. And while the North made its “human rights” comments about Switzerland’s refusal, in particular, the AP notes that Austrian and French lift-makers have also refused.

Apparently the ease with which the North Korean moneyed class circumvents the luxury goods sanction to obtain televisions and kitchen appliances does not extend to ski lifts. Does this mean more nuclear tests then?

North Korea Threatens ‘Horrible Disaster’