Samjiyon: North Korea’s Newest Ski Resort

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International tourism can be expected by 2024

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been in the news this week making a rare public appearance at the town of Samjiyon, close to the border with China’s Jilin Province. While much of the Western media commentary was full of barbs criticizing his dress sense and appearance, his visit to this particular city has some significance – Samjiyon is in the foothills of Mount Paektu, part of the Baekdydaegan and Changbai ranges that run along the Chinese-North Korean border. Mount Paektu has special spiritual significance for all Koreans, and is the highest peak, at just under 3,000 metres along the range. It is the highest mountain in Korea and North-East China.

Samjiyon itself is a pet project of Kim’s, with North Korea beginning construction of a ski resort four years ago. Kim’s visit, which was undertaken from his nearby residential Palace near Mount Paeku, was to oversee the third, and final phase of construction, which has been delayed due to sanctions and Covid. He stated during his visit that the resort, which includes residential buildings, and hotels, with significant ski and speed skating facilities, with varying ski runs and three speed skating ovals being designed, will also include an industrial park with a focus on tourism development.

Samjiyon ski slope development, not unlike Yabuli near China’s Harbin, the site of various Beijing Winter Olympics events in February.

The residential sector caters for 4,000 families, with an additional 380 blocks for public buildings and constructions in the industrial park. Samjiyon is the largest of North Korea’s economic initiatives and is designed to help make the DPRK economy self-sufficient.

Kim Jong-Un in front of the new Samjiyon resort and residential development.

Preparations are well underway to cater for an apparently international clientele. The local airport is being completely renovated with funding from South Korea’s Hyundai, while Samjiyon has also been connected to the North Korean state rail network with the resort terminus at Chunghung-ri.

Samjiyon can probably be expected to open to selected North Korean tourists first as a soft launch in 2023 with openings to foreign visitors in 2024.

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