PHOTO: Courtesy of Uri Tours
In an attempt to alleviate political tensions and bring more foreign tourism to North Korea, Moon Jae-in, South Korea's new president, has requested the country's northern neighbor co-host some ski events for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. According to The Washington Post, if approved by the International Olympic Committee, events like freestyle skiing and alpine skiing could be held at Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea.
The request poses major security and logistical questions. Would this eliminate spectators? Would the U.S. be allowed to compete? Would they want to? Officials told to The Washington Post that athletes will have to pass through North Korea's demilitarized zone—a 160-mile buffer that divides the Korean Peninsula about 2.5 miles wide—to get to Masikryong.
But the biggest question is what it would mean for international relations. The announcement came before North Korea’s recent demonstration of its nuclear-capable ballistic missile on July 4. According to Human Right's Watch, North Korea remains among the world's most repressive countries under Kim Jong-un. Its goal is to have a missile that can reach the U.S.
Designed to emulate a Swiss-style mega resort, Masikryong could be considered one of the most exotic places to après, however the U.S. Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea. North Korea recently released an American student named Otto Warmbier who had been held in detention for 17 months. After returning to his home country in a coma, Warmbier died shortly after his release. A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world.
Full of restaurants handpicked by Kim Jong-un and offering 9 runs and 2,300 feet of vert, Masikryong Ski Resort opened in January 2014 and is said to have cost the regime $35 million. Moon's request to utilize the resort is being marketed as a "peace gesture" between the two countries that split in 1945 following World War II.
Following the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, which North Korea boycotted, this will be the second Olympic Games in South Korea. The 2014 Sochi Olympics marked the first time in 12 years North Korea was not present at the Winter Games as none of its athletes qualified.
Moon has also suggested the two countries co-host the 2030 FIFA World Cup in an attempt to infiltrate the inter-Korean sports scene. It remains to be scene how North Korea’s escalating tensions with the U.S. will impact next winter’s Olympics.