Just ahead of a scheduled trip to North Korea, where several elite snowboarders and Tom Monterosso of Snowboarder magazine are set to visit the country’s new ski resort, Masik Pass, the government announced a successful test of its first hydrogen bomb. This is a more powerful weapon than North Korea was thought to have in its quiver to date and the government released a press release boasting of the accomplishment:
“The first H-bomb test was successfully conducted in the DPRK at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Juche 105 (2016), pursuant to the strategic determination of the WPK. Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts, the DPRK fully proved that the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of the test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb. It was confirmed that the H-bomb test, conducted in a safe and perfect manner, had no adverse impact on the ecological environment.”
Terje Haakonsen, Dan Liedahl, and Mike Ravelson are scheduled to visit the resort Jan 9-16, a move that has generated plenty of buzz throughout the action sports community. The resort, which opened in 2014, has ten runs and cost approximately 35 million to construct.
Some North Korean experts see the snowboarding tour, specifically, as a way to cover the resort’s construction costs as officials expect it to drive interest in the resort that Nknews.org says officials boldly estimate will create a revenue stream of more than $62 million annually. “I think Masikryong is not an attractive ski resort because for Chinese visitors, skiing is not a familiar sport,” Shin Yong-seok, a researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute told The Guardian. “And for the Americans and Europeans, [though] they are more familiar with skiing, they have domestic resorts. So, it seems it has not paid for itself.”
The move by the snowboarders has been both criticized and applauded. Regardless, it’s still difficult to get past North Korea’s questionable human rights record. Mysterious disappearances of high ranking officials, rumors of mass killings. Kim Jong-un is even rumored to have had his uncle murdered because of a disagreement over the resort’s construction.
And the testing of a hydrogen bomb just days before a group of snowboarders arrive only adds intrigue to an already highly-anticipated mission.