Renewed grievances over forced labor for Masik Pass Ski Resort construction
Joint ski training events held at North Korea's Masik Pass ski resort this week have received coverage by the international press. Daily NK has recently heard from inside sources about the forced labor mobilization that soldiers were subjected to by the regime to construct the ski facilities.
"There are a lot of people who are fuming at the recent state propaganda for the Masik Pass ski resort," a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on February 1. "They're promoting his (Kim Jong Un's) 'love for the people,' but soldiers who were mobilized to build the ski resort are insisting that they weren’t given a choice."
"In 2013, when plans for the Masik Pass project were announced, many soldiers who had already completed their service were recalled by their units and ordered to the site for the construction. The families of these soldiers expressed intense concerns at the time, complaining that their loved ones were being forced back to construction projects after they had already been discharged," he added.
Soldiers at the time also complained that the orders prevented them from being able to visit their families, and many had previously worked on other arduous forced mobilization projects like the Huichon power station. "Some soldiers even deliberately skipped meals so that they could be diagnosed with malnutrition and sent home," the source explained.
Soldiers were taking such extreme measures "due to the expectation that they would be forced to work day and night in line with Kim Jong Un's orders to do whatever it takes to complete the project within a year," he said.
The way the soldiers were forced to gather water and sand for the project has also become a popular subject of complaint. While announcing that the project would be completed within 100 days, propaganda also boasted that soldiers had personally "carried dozens of tons of water and 120 tons of sand up the steep mountain slopes" for use in construction.
"Taehwa Peak, the tallest peak at Masik Pass, is said by locals to be 1500 meters high (actual height: 1,360 meters). As with most mountains in the region, the slopes are extremely steep, and nearly all supplies must be transported by way of dirt backroads. Soldiers were drenched in sweat after having to haul their loads on their backs and climb up the mountain," a source in Kangwon Province explained.
He added that soldiers and residents in the area are now complaining that the Masik Pass project "is a foreign currency-earning scheme built with the blood and sweat of soldiers."
"The cost of a three-day stay at the Masik Pass ski resort – including food, lodging, equipment and rentals – comes out to the outrageous price of 3.8 million KPW per person (about $475 USD). Rich traders and the elite can afford this, but the ordinary resident would consider it unimaginably expensive, as 600 kg of rice can be purchased with that amount of money," he said.
"But public interest in the Masik Pass resort is rising, especially with the Winter Olympics coming up, the joint ski training event being held there, and with more students and residents being taken there on field trips. People are also talking about how the resort acquired a snow machine last October and has been laying snow on the mountain with it."