North Korea angry at Swiss ban on ski lift sale

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Kim Jong-un at the Masik ski resort site on 27 May 2013Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Kim Jong-un had wanted the resort to be finished by the end of the year

North Korea has reacted angrily to a decision by Switzerland to block a deal to sell ski lifts to the secretive communist country.

The equipment - which included chair lifts and cable cars - was for the Masik ski resort project which is currently under construction.

But the Swiss government said last week the equipment constituted luxury goods and so was subject to UN sanctions.

North Korea's Skiers' Association said such equipment should not be banned.

The resort, it said in a statement, was aimed at giving North Koreans "highly civilised and happy living conditions and make them enjoy all blessings.

"Cableway equipment for the ski resort do not produce any rocket or nuclear weapon," it added.

'Prestigious propaganda project'

The Masik ski resort site was believed to be a pet project of leader Kim Jong-un, who reportedly skied when he attended secondary school in Bern under an assumed name.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Chair lifts are a common sight at ski resorts

It is also being viewed as a response to South Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Work on the site had been delayed by heavy rains and landslides, but Kim Jong-un wanted the resort to be finished by the end of the year.

The North Korean leader has repeatedly visited the site and promoted it as an attempt to enhance the lifestyle of the nation's citizens.

But Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) labelled the resort a "prestigious propaganda project for the regime".

"It is inconceivable that this resort will be used by the general public," Seco spokeswoman Marie Avet said.

The ski lift deal with Swiss company Bartholet Maschinenbau, valued at more than $7m (£4.46m; 5.2m euros), is reportedly the third to fall through due to sanctions.

Austrian and French manufacturers also turned down deals, citing political reasons.

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