Apparently, global warming and the coronavirus are making North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's propaganda and economic efforts difficult for him.
According to a story published Thursday at Bloomberg Green, the dictator's efforts to boost the country's international profile via ski resorts in the country are supposedly being threatened by rising global temperatures. Should the world feel bad for the communist strongman?
Here's a selection from the piece:
The North Korean leader, who once went to school in Switzerland, has made tourism a centerpiece of his economic vision since taking power almost a decade ago, building ski resorts to attract winter-sports enthusiasts and hard currency.
But with the coronavirus spreading in China, Kim has shut the border to his neighbor, cutting off the largest group of tourists to North Korea. Worse still, like other snow centers from the French Alps to Japan, North Korea is falling victim to changing Arctic weather patterns that are warming winters and reducing the levels of snow on lower slopes.
North Korea, a mountainous country roughly at the same latitude as Colorado, reported this month that higher-than-usual temperatures are causing "abnormal climatic phenomena." South Korea's weather office says average temperatures in its northern neighbor will probably rise 15% by 2040 from 1981-2010 levels.
The story goes on to describe how the dictator built his first ski resort in Masikryong in 2013, recently cut the ribbon on another in December, and is his hoping to rebuild another one by the end of the year. The one completed late last year even has hot springs and a horse racetrack to boot.
"Kim's enthusiasm for luxury resorts isn't just about propaganda," the authors write. "The growing number of tourists from around the world seeking new adventures, and the rapid increase in international travelers from neighboring China present a valuable potential source of foreign reserves."
The story goes on to describe the experiences of two skiers who have traveled to the Hermit Kingdom to hit the slopes. One 39-year-old skier named Christian told the outlet that his trip last year was almost canceled because of a "really bad snow season" there and said he was "lucky" that the place was open when he arrived.
A German skier named Ralph said that Masikryong was right up there with some of his other favorite destinations around the world and that the threat of global warming posed to it was "on the same level as lower-lying small European ski resorts."
"Hopefully for Korea it will get more relaxed and more people will be able to enjoy it," Ralph told the outlet via outlet. "I would truly love to go back there."
The story was also promoted via Twitter video on Bloomberg Asia's account, complete with a picture of Kim riding a white horse through snow-covered pine trees.
"Kim Jong Un dreamed of turning North Korea into a skiing paradise," the tweet said. "Now those plans are melting away due to climate change."
The coverage here offers such a rosy depiction of Kim's ski tourism efforts and the resorts themselves that one can almost forget that it's a story about an oppressive communist regime if they're not careful. But we are, in fact, talking about a very oppressive regime here.
"Surveillance is pervasive, arbitrary arrests and detention are common, and punishments for political offenses are severe" in North Korea, according to Freedom House. "While some social and economic changes have been observed in recent years, including a growth in small-scale private business activity, human rights violations are still widespread, grave, and systematic."
Human Rights Watch similarly describes the country as "one of the world's most repressive states."
Then there are, of course, the disturbing reports forced abortions, the "horrific conditions" that political prisoners are subjected to, and Kim's proclivity for brutal executions of regime officials.
Given all of that information, is anyone really supposed to be remotely concerned about the fate of Kim's luxury ski resorts? A fate that may or may not come to fruition over the next two decades if the reported projections are to be believed?
The only real victims in this situation are the countless North Koreans who have suffered under Kim's iron rule while their dictator tries his hand at creating winter vacation destinations meant to bring in foreign money and — as the story puts it — "ski his way out of international sanctions."