December 19, 2013
Swiss ban 'inappropriate' ski lifts for North Korea
Switzerland has banned the sale to North Korea of equipment for a luxury ski resort planned for the ruling elite in the widely impoverished state that is under UN sanctions, according to officials.
North Korean leader Kim Jung-un, who studied under an assumed name in the Swiss capital Berne and is believed to have gone on school ski trips in the Alps, wants to develop leisure activities for tourists and the upper crust among its 23 million citizens.
North Korea approached several Swiss companies, including Bartholet Maschinenbau AG, to provide chair lifts and cable cars worth 7 million Swiss francs ($7.57 million) for its sprawling Masik resort, the Geneva daily Le Temps reported on Monday.
But the Swiss government, contacted by the firms for clearance, added luxury sporting equipment to its list of goods banned under United Nations sanctions, Marie Avet of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said.
"The Federal Council decided on July 3 to also put infrastructure for sports facilities on the list, especially when they have a more luxury character for resorts," Avet told Reuters. "These resorts have a luxury character, that is why it is not appropriate to export."
The neutral country's sanctions list for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) also includes equipment for golf, horseback riding, water sports, billiards and casinos, as well as luxury watches, jewellery, caviar, perfume and artworks.
Almost a third of North Korean children are stunted due to malnutrition, the U.N.'s World Food Programme says. The UN secretary-general has appealed for funding for food, health care and sanitation to millions of North Koreans.
Reclusive North Korea is under UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile weapons programmes.
A North Korean diplomat in Geneva said on Monday that it was aware of the Swiss decision but had no other information.
Rival South Korea will hosting the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018. North Korea said on Sunday it had accepted Seoul's offer to hold working-level talks on resuming reunions of families separated by the Korean War.