'Contraband Equipment' at N.Korean Ski Resort

The newly opened Masikryong ski resort in North Korea is equipped with high-end Western equipment that appears to have smuggled in despite international sanctions, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.

These pieces of equipment are banned from export to the North, raising concerns about the effectiveness of sanctions on the regime.

Chad O'Carroll of NK News, a U.S. news site focusing on North Korea, said new Canadian snowmobiles, Swedish snow-blowers and Italian and German snow cats have all been spotted at the resort.

Pictures in the North Korean state media show at least seven snow blowers produced by Sweden's Areco, each costing US$37,000; three snow ploughs by Italy's Prinoth and Germany's Pisten Bully, which cost anything between $80,000 and $110,000 each; and a "Ski-Doo" snowmobile from Canada's Bombardier Recreational Products and Vehicles, which costs about $10,000, O'Carroll said.

O'Carroll said that these products are classified as luxury goods, whose export to the North is prohibited by UN sanctions. The goods may have been smuggled into the North through an East Asian or Chinese reseller, he speculated.

"It seems most likely that the North bought them through an intermediary in a third country, just as they would do in money laundering, by disassembling them and smuggling them in piece by piece," Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said. "We need to look at ways of making sanctions against the North more effective."

This apparently doctored picture published on Friday in North Koreas Rodong Sinmun daily shows visitors skiing at the Masikryong resort. This apparently doctored picture published on Friday in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun daily shows visitors skiing at the Masikryong resort.

Last year, the regime attempted to import ski lifts and cable cars from Switzerland and Austria for the Masikryong resort, leader Kim Jong-un's pet project. But the attempts floundered. Therefore, the ski lifts at Masikryong were reportedly taken from the Samjiyon ski resort near Mt. Baekdu.

A ski lift that Kim Jong-un was pictured riding on Dec. 29 appears to be of vintage quality, with only two seats instead of the industry standard of four. Normally ski lifts with two seats are only found in non-commercial resorts, RFA quoted ski equipment experts as saying.

O'Carroll said that these products are classified as luxury goods, whose export to the North is prohibited by UN sanctions. The goods may have been smuggled into the North through an East Asian or Chinese reseller, he speculated.

"It seems most likely that the North bought them through an intermediary in a third country, just as they would do in money laundering, by disassembling them and smuggling them in piece by piece," Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said. "We need to look at ways of making sanctions against the North more effective."

Last year, the regime attempted to import ski lifts and cable cars from Switzerland and Austria for the Masikryong resort, leader Kim Jong-un's pet project. But the attempts floundered. Therefore, the ski lifts at Masikryong were reportedly taken from the Samjiyon ski resort near Mt. Baekdu.

A ski lift that Kim Jong-un was pictured riding on Dec. 29 appears to be of vintage quality, with only two seats instead of the industry standard of four. Normally ski lifts with two seats are only found in non-commercial resorts, RFA quoted ski equipment experts as saying.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 06, 2014 11:59 KST