North Korea opens new mountain resort amid tourism drive

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency on Dec 8, 2019, shows a view of the completed Yangdok County Hot Spring Cultural Recreation Centre in North Korea. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (AP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened a new mountain spa and ski resort that's intended for people to enjoy "high civilisation under socialism" in another example of the country using tourism exemptions in international sanctions to build revenue for its broken economy.

Mr Kim cut the ribbon during the ceremonial opening of the Yangdok Hot Spring Cultural Recreation Centre and praised his soldiers for creating a "miracle and prefect edifice" that serves the ruling party's efforts to guide people to modern civilisation, a state media report said.

The resort east of the capital has modern rooms, hot spring spas, a ski resort and a horse-riding park, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday (Dec 8).

"(Mr Kim) 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 civilisation under socialism as early as possible has come true," KCNA said.

The Yangdok resort, which the North began building last year, has been one of Mr Kim's major development projects along with another mountain resort recently completed in the town of Samjiyon and a summer resort being built in the coastal town of Wonsan.

North Korea also last week announced the creation of a company dedicated to creating medical tourism services to foreign visitors at the country's hot spring spas and state-run hospitals, where they will be able to receive cataract surgeries, dental implants and breast tumor treatments.

North Korea has also demanded South Korea tear down its hotels and other facilities at the North's Diamond Mountain resort after Mr Kim declared that the North would redevelop the site on its own.

The announcement came after months of frustration over the South's unwillingness to defy US-led sanctions and restart South Korean tours to the resort, which was suspended in 2008 after a North Korean guard fatally shot a South Korean tourist.

Tourism is excluded from the heavy sanctions the UN Security Council has imposed on the North over its nuclear weapons programme, which includes a full ban on key exports like coal, textile and seafood, strict limitations on oil imports.

The sanctions also require all UN members to repatriate all North Korean labourers based in their countries by December.

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