Kim Jong Un’s masterplan for his hermit kingdom to become an international ski destination might be melting before his eyes due to climate change. Bloomberg did an excellent article about the North Korean leader, who studied in Switzerland, making tourism a centerpiece of his economic vision since taking power almost a decade ago. However, Kim’s resorts where visitors “enjoy happiness and civilization not imaginable even in the Garden of Eden” are reportedly not doing well. Apparently, climate change and the coronavirus are threatening his ambition “to ski his way out of international sanctions.”
As the coronavirus spreads in China, Kim has closed the border to his neighbor, effectively cutting off his largest skiing customer base. 200,000 Chinese tourists visited North Korea in 2018 and spent an estimated $152 million which amounts to a sizable chunk of the $240 million the nation earned in exports. Pair that with Arctic weather patterns that are warming winters and reducing the levels of snow on lower slopes and you have an economic shit sandwich hot off the panini press:
“North Korea will face the same challenges posed by global warming. The question lies in whether each country has the infrastructure and the social system to cope with these changes. In this regard, North Korea could be more vulnerable than others.” –Professor Kong Woo-seok
Regardless of the longterm climate outlook, Kim is mobilizing some of his 1.2-million Korean People’s Army to build more resorts. He has renewed his emphasis on “self-reliance” since his failed summit with Trump and is moving forward with tourism and other projects. Warren Miller believed “if everybody skied there’d be no wars”, not sure where Kim stands on mountain sports and peaceful international relations.