North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits ski resort as pet project complete: KCNA

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a newly completed ski resort on Tuesday and ordered officials to open his pet project to the public as soon as possible, state media reported.

Kim took a test ride on a ski lift at the Masik Pass Ski Resort, which he said during a visit two weeks ago was "at the centre of the world's attention", the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

He noted "with great satisfaction" that everything was "impeccable" and gave instructions to serve the people well so that visitors may "keenly feel the loving care of the party".

Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, told officials to hold the opening ceremony at the earliest possible date, KCNA said.

The ski resort was described by KCNA as a "great monumental structure in the era of Songun," referring to the nation's "military first" policy. The military played a leading role in the project.

Kim was accompanied by top military leaders and, conspicuously, Pak Myong-Chol, a top sports official known to be associated with Kim's uncle who was executed this month.

Jang Song Thaek, Kim's powerful political mentor, was put to death in a shock purge on 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.

The Masik Pass Ski Resort made headlines in August when Switzerland blocked a US$7.6 million (S$9.6 million) sale of ski lifts to Pyongyang, calling it a "propaganda project" for the impoverished Stalinist regime.

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

The young leader has shown a fondness for expensive, high-profile leisure projects in and around the showpiece capital Pyongyang including a massive new water park, an amusement park and a luxury horseback riding club.

The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang opened in October to much fanfare, with the 109,000-square metre venue sporting dozens of indoor and outdoor pools, water slides and saunas.

Kim in September also watched films at a new "4D" movie theatre built in the newly-renovated Rungna People's amusement park, state media reported earlier.

He was photographed riding a roller coaster in the Rungna amusement park in Pyongyang when it reopened in July 2012 after renovations ordered by Kim.

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