When we hear ‘human rights violations’ and ‘North Korea’ in the same sentence, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. But one might be baffled to hear that in the following ski-related case, North Korea is not the one being accused of human rights violations, but the accuser.

North Koreans have been working night and day on the construction of the nation’s very first ski resort. The construction has already been dubbed Kim Jong-un’s ‘pet project’ and the completion of the ski resort was set as a ‘top national priority’. Even the military was ordered to work on the construction. Many have argued that the ski resort is being built to rival the winter sport facilities of South Korea to host the Winter Olympics of 2018. Kim wants the project to be finished by the end of the year.

But there is a complication for Kim. Europe refuses to deliver ski lifts to North Korea because of imposed sanctions. Ironically, whereas North Korea has got the technology to build a nuclear bomb, it doesn’t have the expertise to make its own ski lifts. At first, Kim offered millions of dollars to France and Austria for a couple of their ski lifts, but both refused. An offer of 7,7 million dollars to Switzerland was also answered with a clear ‘no’. In March of this year, the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea, prohibiting the export of luxury goods to the country because of North Korea’s nuclear tests a month earlier.

While North Korea can build nuclear bombs, they do not have the expertise for ski lifts.

Kim is furious. He stated via the official state outlet that the refusal to export ski lifts is “a serious human rights abuse that politicizes sport and discriminates against the Koreans.” Kim argues that the construction of the world-class ski resort should provide the people of North Korea with happier living conditions. At the same time,  widespread poverty and problems with food provision in the country are mostly ignored. UNICEF already stated in April that six million people in the country of 24 million people do not have enough to eat. Priorities, Kim…

The new projects of the supreme leader of North Korea are “bleeding North Korea dry,’’ says a South Korean government official. Kim is forcing people to work on his million dollar projects and demands that every North Korean outside of the country pays $300 to finance the construction of the ski resort.

Questions remain about who will use the ski resort once it has been completed. Estimations say that there are approximately 5.500 skiers in the country – which accounts for about 0.02% of the state’s population. Perhaps the most active skier will be Kim himself, who developed a clear interest for the sport during a seven-year study period in Switzerland. And maybe, in a few years time, we will have a starving North Korean Olympic skiing champion…

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