Sanctions delay North Korean beach resort plan: Analysts

The eastern seaside strip is intended as the centrepiece of North Korea's nascent tourism sector, as it seeks to develop its economy despite the sanctions. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a visit to the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area. The site'
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a visit to the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area. The site’s construction has been closely overseen by him and it was initially scheduled to open this month to mark the birthday anniversary of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. But he has delayed the finish date a second time, ordering its construction to be completed by the same time next year. PHOTO: REUTERS
The eastern seaside strip is intended as the centrepiece of North Korea's nascent tourism sector, as it seeks to develop its economy despite the sanctions. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a visit to the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area. The site'
The eastern seaside strip is intended as the centrepiece of North Korea’s nascent tourism sector, as it seeks to develop its economy despite the sanctions. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Kim's decision to push back completion date again shows regime is struggling under economic measures, they say

SEOUL • North Korea has again pushed back the construction end date of a massive beach resort - a move that analysts say shows the regime is struggling under international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programmes.

The eastern seaside strip, known as the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area, is intended as the centrepiece of the isolated country's nascent tourism industry, as Pyongyang seeks to develop its economy despite the tough economic measures.

The site's construction has been closely overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and it was initially scheduled to open this month to mark the birthday anniversary of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung.

But in a recent visit to the site, Mr Kim Jong Un delayed the finish date for the second time, ordering construction to be completed by the same time next year, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported last Saturday.

The decision would allow the workers "to perfectly finish it so that our people would fully enjoy themselves in the impeccable tourist area from the sea-bathing season next year", the news agency quoted Mr Kim as saying.

The plan was first pushed back last August when Mr Kim extended the project by six months to October this year.

The isolated North is under several sets of sanctions for its weapons programmes which analysts say have hampered efforts to secure the materials needed to finish the vast beach complex.

 
 
 

"North Korea can complete the external construction of the hotels by itself, but most of the finishing materials for the interior are imported," said Korea Institute for National Unification senior researcher Cho Han-bum.

The economic measures banned imports of some items and Pyongyang was supplying the sanctioned goods with its foreign currency, said Mr Cho, adding: "But that has also dried up."

Satellite images taken by United States monitors last December showed that the buildings previously under construction were nearing completion. "The North Korean economy has hit a limit with the sanctions," said Mr Cho.

Immediate sanctions relief was a key demand of cash-strapped North Korea when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February for a second summit that ultimately broke down.

Mr Trump, a former real estate developer turned billionaire, has praised North Korea's tourism potential, referring to its "great beaches", which he said would make ideal locations for condominiums.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2019, with the headline 'Sanctions delay North Korean beach resort plan: Analysts'. Print Edition | Subscribe