Over the weekend, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spent some time touring what he hopes will soon be a “world-class” ski resort in Kangwon Province, North Korea. Kim — who went to school in Switzerland — is a big booster of the project, which he calls a “gigantic patriotic work.” He has specified the exact types of structures that should be built, including a heliport — for all those (illegal) helicopters in North Korea. The idea is, in part, to one-up South Korea ahead of its hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. “A skiing wave will seize the country,” Kim is reported to have said.
But, as with much of life in North Korea, just because Kim Jong Un says a thing will be great does not make it so.
Aside from landslides, heavy rain, and the incredible cost of constructing a skiing area that spans dozens of miles in an impoverished nation, North Korea will have to battle trade sanctions. On Monday, the government of Switzerland announced that it has blocked the sale of more than $7 million worth of ski lifts and cable cars to North Korea. Kim’s government had contacted several Swiss companies, who then needed Switzerland’s sign-off to proceed. That didn’t go over too well with the Swiss.
Switzerland’s state secretariat for economic affairs called the ski resort a “prestigious propaganda project for the regime” and a spokesperson said that it would not be “appropriate” to export infrastructure to North Korean sports facilities with a “luxury character.” And it’s not just ski equipment that Switzerland has now added to its list of sanctions for the Democratic People’s Republic. Swiss companies will now not be able to sell golf, horseback-riding, or billiards equipment to the country. Also, perfume.
Switzerland isn’t the first ski-centric country to knock down a sale: both France and Austria have previously rejected deals. It may be a while before we get to see photos of Kim Jong Un zipping down powdered slopes.
What We're Following See More »
Given the Senate's inaction on the continuing budget resolution (so far), the White House "said it has begun to work with agencies to prepare for the possibility of a large swath of the federal workforce being furloughed without pay beginning at midnight." Even if a shutdown occurs, however, "Senate procedures will allow the chamber to approve the CR with only a handful of Democrats in support by Sunday morning. Of the roughly 900,000 federal employees who were subject to furloughs in agencies’ most recent calculations, most would not be materially impacted as they do not work on weekends."
President Obama has called for a "full review" of the hacking that took place during the 2016 election cycle, according to Obama counterterrorism and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco. Intelligence officials say it is highly likely that Russia was behind the hacking. The results are not necessarily going to be made public, but will be shared with members of Congress.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are threatening to block the spending bill—and prevent the Senate from leaving town—"because it would not extend benefits for retired coal miners for a year or pay for their pension plans. The current version of the bill would extend health benefits for four months. ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday afternoon moved to end debate on the continuing resolution to fund the government through April 28. But unless Senate Democrats relent, that vote cannot be held until Saturday at 1 a.m. at the earliest, one hour after the current funding measure expires."
The South Korean parliament voted on Friday morning to impeach President Park Geun-hye over charges of corruption, claiming she allowed undue influence to a close confidante of hers. Ms. Park is now suspended as president for 180 days. South Korea's Constitutional Court will hear the case and decide whether to uphold or overturn the impeachment.