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North Korea leader visits ski resort pet project, days after uncle's execution

Published on Dec 15, 2013 11:22 AM
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) visits the Designing Institute of the Korean People's Army, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Dec 14, 2013. Mr Kim visited a ski resort under construction in the north-east of the country to check on the progress of his pet project, state media reported on Sunday, just days after he had his uncle executed.-- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a ski resort under construction in the north-east of the country to check on the progress of his pet project, state media reported on Sunday, just days after he had his uncle executed.

The Masik Pass Ski Resort made headlines in August when Switzerland blocked a US$7.6 million (S$9.5 million) sale of ski lifts to Pyongyang, calling it a "propaganda project" for the regime.

Featuring 110 kilometres of multi-level ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars, the resort has been heavily promoted since Mr Kim visited it in June and called for construction to be completed by the end of the year.

On his latest trip, the young leader praised soldiers and labourers for helping speed up construction under "biting cold in December", official state news agency KCNA said, adding the project was "near completion".

"He (Kim) said the skiing courses on the Masik Pass Ski Resort are world-class ones in terms of their number and total length," it said.

The project was now "at the centre of the world's attention", Mr Kim was quoted as saying, adding "everyone would marvel" at its magnificence.

He also urged operators to illuminate the resort at night to allow visitors to enjoy skiing and skating after dark, in an impoverished country suffering chronic power shortage.

Mr Kim's reported trip came days after the shock execution on Thursday of his powerful uncle and political mentor, Jang Song Thaek.

Jang was put to death four days after he was ousted from all his party and military positions for charges including corruption and plotting to overthrow the state.

The purge was the biggest political upheaval since Kim, aged around 30, took power after the death of his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011.