By Kang Tae-ho, senior staff writer
North Korea has been sending signals that it hopes to host some events in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
In particular, it seems to want to tie the event in with its Masikryong ski resort, which has become the subject of major national efforts as a symbol of new economic growth under leader Kim Jong-un.
In a recent telephone interview with Voice of America, Chang Ung, a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the aim of construction was to “link [the Masik Pass resort] to that [the Pyeongchang Olympics].”
“Once the ski resort is built, it can be used for international events, and, if possible, the Olympics,” he said. “That’s the intention.”
He also acknowledged that the matter of co-hosting would not be a simple decision, as it requires discussions with the IOC and the International Ski Federation.
On Sept. 1, Japanese journalists, from organizations including Kyodo News agency, were invited to see the construction site at Masikryong. North Korean Minister of Physical Culture and Sport Won Kil-u said at the time that North Korea was “willing” to offer the ski course as a tournament site for the Pyeongchang Olympics if requested by South Korea or an international body.
“It would be very significant for North and South to cooperate on co-hosting the Winter Olympics,” Won said.
North Korea has announced plans to send soldiers in to build resort facilities at Masikryong, including hotels and a skating rink, while converting the Kalma air force airfield in nearby Wonsan into an international airport as part of an effort to develop a special tourism zone linking the area with Mt. Keumgang.
According to a comprehensive development plan for the Wonsan area unveiled this spring, Wonsan and its environs are to be developed into several different districts for finance/trade, parks/athletics/recreation, tourism/accommodations, and an “athletics village.” Masikryong, which is 20 km from Wonsan, is to be made into a “winter leisure town,” while coastal sites, including Songdowon Beach, Myongsasipri Beach, and Kalma Peninsula, are to be made into summer resorts.
MiG aircraft have already been relocated from the Wonsan airfield, and Chinese financers from Singapore and elsewhere have reportedly expressed interest in investing. In keeping with a recent trend of warming relations with Tokyo, some Japanese investors have reportedly expressed interest in investing in the East Sea coast area in Hamgyong Province, including Wonsan.
Kim Jong-un, who visited the Masikryong resort construction site for an inspection in May, was reported by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency as having expressed his satisfaction during another field instruction visit in August, declaring that a “new world” had been created.
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