Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has given the g0-ahead for the first North Korea Surf Camp and Expedition, which set off on Sunday. Italian surfer Nicola Zanella, coach of the Chinese national surf team, will lead a group of twenty foreign surfers, most of whom are from the US, for eight days as they scour the country’s east coast for world-class waves.
North Korea’s east coast has been open to travelling surfers since August last year, but they have not exactly arrived in their droves. This new camp, the first of its kind in the country, is part of a concerted effort to kickstart its tourism industry. North Korea received 100,000 foreign visitors last year, the vast majority from China, and the intention is to grow this number tenfold by 2017.
“We will not be the first to go surging surf in North Korea – a group already surfed last year with some locals,” says Zanella. “But no one has yet done it with the intention of opening the country to surfing tourism – or to do surfing reconnaissance.”
Such opportunities do pose something of a moral dilemma, of course. On the one hand, by contributing to the North Korean economy you’ll be helping prop up an oppressive and tyrannical regime. On the other, some of the money would surely trickle down to North Koreans themselves, many of whom live in desperate poverty. Some of them may even learn to surf — “a human right”, according to Zanella. It may not be the human right they’re most in need of, but it would at least provide a little respite from the drudgery of third-world existence and having to worship a tubby megalomaniac.
Plus, you might get shacked!
But you probably won’t. A cursory glance at a map is sufficient to realise that North Korea’s east coast, hemmed in by Japan to the east and Russia to the north, reliant on the relatively small Japan Sea for swell, is hardly the ideal place for a surf trip. Still, it has a longer fetch than the Med, which can be epic, so who knows, on its day……
In other recent developments, North Korea has announced that the Yongbygon complex, the country’s main nuclear facility and its principal source of weapons-grade plutonium, has resumed operations following an eight-year hiatus.