Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

KIM Jong-un has demanded builders speed up construction of his Benidorm-style beach resort – which Brits will be welcome to visit.

The North Korean despot wants the plush attraction to be ready for next year’s holiday season as he looks to draw in tourists and line his pocket.

ReutersKim Jong-un grins and points as he inspects the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone[/caption]

What Kim could look like is he takes time to relax at the resort

Credit: Pen NewsThe beach resort is Kim’s pet project, launched in 2017[/caption]

Families enjoying the beach in WonsanReuters

Kim‘s vanity project hit chopping waters less than three years into construction as work halted during the pandemic.

But Kim now wants to hit the accelerator and has ambitions for his resort in Wonsan Kalma on the west coast within months, complete with a water park, hotels and an airfield.

And even tourists from the UK will be able to soak up the sunshine at the resort.

Leading North Korea expert Michael Madden told The Sun: “Provided the Foreign Office does not have such restrictions, if the Wonsan Kalma resort is complete and the DPRK resumes issuing tourist visas then, yes, UK tourists will be able to visit the resort.  

“It is safe to assume that some North Korean tourism companies will market specialist tours of the country’s beaches.”

But travel to North Korea is widely viewed as dangerous – with several tourists previously detained.

American passport holders are even banned from travelling to the hermit kingdom unless they receive an exemption from the Department of State.

James Finnerty, of Lupine Travel which offers tours of North Korea from the UK, however, says visiting the secretive state “isn’t quite what most people imagine”.

He told The Sun: “Things are a little more relaxed in Wonsan compared to Pyongyang, our groups visiting the beaches there have had the chance to meet the locals more so than in the city.

“Whilst the itineraries for group tours are relatively strict and inflexible, we still make time for more relaxed activities like visits to the local fun fairs or sports events when possible.”

But it might not just be holidaymakers flocking to the resort, as according to Mr Madden – director and founder of NK Leadership Watch – Kim’s main residence is in the city of Wonsan.

At the moment, the UK’s Foreign Office advises against “all but essential travel” to North Korea.

It warns: “While daily life in the capital city Pyongyang may appear calm, the security situation can change quickly with no advance warning about possible actions by the authorities.

“This poses significant risks to British visitors and residents.”

The Government department also warns of high levels of tension in the area as Kim continues to plough on with nuclear and missile tests.

And Dr Edward Howell, a lecturer at the University of Oxford who specialises in research on contemporary North Korea, said tourists will have to hold off packing their bags as the country’s border remain closed.

He told The Sun: “It is not surprising that North Korea seeks to revive its tourism industry, although the country remains slow to open its borders since their drastic closure in January 2020.

“Indeed, many foreign embassies in the country still remain closed to diplomatic missions, so it will be some time before tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels.”

Kim’s hopes to have the resort up and running next year come amid the despot’s wider plot to revitalise North Korea’s tourism industry – and in turn, earn foreign currency.

Dr Howell added: “Pyongyang’s desire to complete the construction of the Wonsan beach resort highlights growing concerns of the need to boost the domestic economy, at a time when Kim Jong-un has become increasingly frank about the failure of his ‘new strategic line’ – established in 2018 – to strengthen economic development.  

“That said, will ambitions translate into realities?  

“It will take time for tourism to rebound, as the regime will want to be cautious about opening its borders too rapidly, not least since it has used the border closure to justify toughening state control over society.”

Kim ordered the beach resort be constructed in 2017 after officials were “amazed” by a research trip to Spain’s Costa Blanca.

Pictures from before much of the world went into lockdown show the grinning dictator inspecting rows of high-rise hotels and checking out the sea views from private villas.

With more than 150 buildings scattered along the peninsula, the sprawling complex is said to be 90 per cent completed.

Credit: Pen NewsThe Benidorm-style resort is meant to be ready by next holiday season[/caption]

Credit: Pen NewsKim Jong-un inspecting building works in April 2019[/caption]

Credit: Pen NewsThe zone will be complete with a water park, hotels and an airfield[/caption]

But it is now understood to be filled with faeces and unfinished hotels after Kim’s ambitious 2019 completion date came and went.

Kim, however, wants to kick start construction again and import the materials needed to finish it off.

Covid threw a spanner in the works as North Korea was forced to implement some of the most aggressive quarantine policies in the world and its borders closed.

It meant Kim struggled to secure funding and materials needed for the project.

North Korea’s Ministry of External Economic Relations is now working to strike up foreign investments – likely China and Russia – and import materials needed.

Mr Madden said Kim would be eager to see Wonsan resort open as he wants to attract tourism and business in special economic administrative zones.

He said: “These are long-term policy goals as Pyongyang is well aware that sanctions and continued WMD test activity preclude a glut of tourists and foreign direct investment – even from friendly countries like China and Russia.

“Part of this is to spin tourism away into more traditional areas like beach resorts, winter sports and hot springs. 

“Most tourism to the DPRK is about seeing the country and sites and learning about the culture and society in situ. 

“They have always done a brisk trade in Chinese visitors who want to see what the old Mao-era days were like in People’s Republic of China. 

“Moving away from that, they have tried to develop tourist sites in Wonsan as well as Hamhu’ng which is also on the east coast and is a bit north of Wonsan.”

Mr Madden said Kim would ideally want to see the resort open next year – but a 2025 opening could more likely be on the cards.

He added: “The resort construction might be the subject of a ‘speed battle’, which is when the Party orders major projects and economic output boosted on an x-day basis.

“And the results are then presented and publicised to the population as evidence of the regime’s success and unique virtues of the North Korean political economic system.

“That said, Kim is a bit more laid back than his father and grandfather.

“So he would rather see Wonsan-Kalma finished completely rather than have a collapsing shell simply to hold a ribbon cutting.

“I suspect that while there might be some pressure to complete the project, Kim would probably be satisfied if it were to open in 2025.

“That way when he holds the ninth Party Congress in 2026, he can point to Wonsan Kalma as a successful result from the eighth Party Congress.”


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