N. Korea leader sets goal to create "world-class" ski area

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for a skiing ground being built on a mountain pass near the eastern port city of Wonsan to be developed into a "world-class" ski area, official media reported.

The Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Beijing, said Kim instructed the Korean People's Army, which is in charge of the Masik Pass Skiing Ground project, to accelerate its work "so that the skiing ground may go operational from the coming winter."

During a recent visit to the site, it said, Kim "provided field guidance" to the "soldier-builders" and conveyed the "firm determination" of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea "to build the skiing ground into a world-class one."

The report said the resort will have beginner, intermediate and advanced-level courses, as well as hotel, cableways and a heliport.

It said Masik Pass is an ideal location for a ski resort as it ensures a long period of skiing and it is easy to access via the Pyongyang-Wonsan motorway.

During his onsite inspection, KCNA said, Kim also called for the production of skis and other winter sports apparatuses.

In January, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted Park Sang Kwon, the head of inter-Korean automaker Pyeonghwa Motors, as saying he was told by North Korean officials that Kim personally gave the order for the ski resort to be built.

"The North seems to want to develop a small ski resort first and build this up depending on demand," Park was quoted as saying in an interview with Yonhap after he visited North Korea in December.

The businessman said Pyongyang wants to transform Wonsan into a special tourist zone. If a ski resort is opened on Masik Pass, he said, tourists would visit year round because the city is already locally famous for its beaches.

He also said North Korea might use a military airfield near the city to accept civilian flights carrying tourists.