North Korea Builds Ski Resort To Rival 2018 Winter Olympics

U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear missiles aren’t the only thing being built in North Korea that have made headlines lately; it seems dictator Kim Jong-un has also ordered construction on a ski resort that will rival the facilities being built in South Korea to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, news.com.au reports.

According to multiple reports citing North Korean state media, the dictator predicts a “skiing wave will seize the country” and has ordered construction on a “world-class” ski resort with beginner, intermediate and advanced tracks, plus a hotel, cable cars, equipment shops and more. He has also ordered the domestic production of ski equipment and clothing.

Jong-un’s orders came shortly after the 2011 announcement that the South Korean city of Pyeongchang will host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. When the 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea, the neighbor to the north boycotted the games – but no official announcement has been made on the 2018 Winter Olympics. Although the new resort is slated to be a “world-class” attraction, it’s not likely very much of the world will get to experience the North Korean slopes – tourism in the country is strictly controlled by several state-owned tourism bureaus.

Better Know A Holiday: Showa Day

Formerly: The Emperor’s Birthday, Greenery Day

When? April 29

Public holiday in: Japan

Part of: Japan’s Golden Week, a series of four public holidays in the span of a week that sees offices closed, trains and planes packed and a mass exodus from the major cities like Tokyo.

Who died? Former Japanese Emperor Hirohito, posthumously referred to as Emperor Showa.

They changed his name? Showa refers to the era of Hirohito’s reign. After death, Japanese emperors were referred to by the name of the era during which they ruled. The Showa Emperor’s reign lasted from 1926 to 1989, the longest era in Japanese history. Showa can be translated as “enlightened peace.”

… wasn’t he the ruler during WWII? Hirohito chose the name “showa” for his era after returning from the post-WWI battlefields in France and witnessing the devastation there. His anti-war sentiment seems to have been legitimate, but he ended up reigning over a period of unprecedented military brutality. However, he also reigned over a period of unprecedented economic growth in the years after the war.

How is the holiday celebrated now? Officially it’s a time to reflect on the era of Hirohito’s reign, Japan’s turbulent past and subsequent recovery, and where the country is headed. In reality, as the start of Golden Week, it’s when most Japanese take off for a vacation.

Other ways to celebrate: Public lectures talking about Japan’s participation in the war, to pass on the memories to future generations.Why was it Greenery Day before? Until 1989, the April 29 holiday was still referred to as the Emperor’s Birthday. But when Hirohito died, the Emperor’s Birthday was necessarily moved to December, when his son and successor Akihito was born. Hirohito loved nature, so April 29 became Greenery Day, which allowed people to acknowledge Hirohito without expressly using his name. This actually isn’t the first time this has happened in Japan. The Meiji Emperor’s birthday was celebrated on November 3 until his death in 1912, and after November 3 became Culture Day.

What happened to Greenery Day then? In 2005, Japan passed a bill that turned April 29 into Showa Day. Greenery Day was moved to May 4.

This pissed off: China, South Korea, North Korea

Why? They see the holiday as honoring Hirohito, who reigned during an era of Japanese war crimes and occupation of their countries. Japan argues it that the holiday is a time to reflect on those turbulent times, not celebrate them.

What else is going on during Golden Week? Besides Greenery Day, there is also Constitution Memorial Day on May 3, which is meant to have people reflect on the Japanese government. May 5 is Children’s Day, a day to celebrate the happiness of being a kid. Traditionally, families fly carp-shaped flags to bring good luck to their boys. Girls don’t get any flags, fish-shaped or otherwise.

These aren’t really “party time” holidays, are they? Last time, we covered Songkran, Southeast Asia’s annual drunken water fight. This time, we have a series of holidays that encourage reflection on, chronologically, a nation’s past and future, man’s place in nature, the meaning of democracy, and the innocence of children. They are decidedly not party time holidays, but that’s hardly a bad thing. You can have a party anytime. But when’s the last time you thought about the importance of effective governance and the dictates of post-war economic recovery? That’s what I thought.

Check out more holidays around the world here

[Photo Credit: Flick user Summon Baka]

Video: Top 10 Greatest Adventures For 2013 By Richard Bangs

Richard Bangs, the host of the television show “Adventures with a Purpose,” has been called the “father of modern adventure travel” by Outside magazine. So when he makes a list of ten great destinations for 2013, it’s a good idea to take notice. In the video below, Bangs shares his suggestions for some of the top destinations to visit this year. The list is comprised of some old classics, some places that are on the rise and others that are just down right surprising. If you’re still searching for ideas on places to visit this year, then perhaps you’ll find just what you’re looking for right here.


South Korea Assures Country Is Safe For Travel

North Korea has issued a warning to foreign companies and tourists to leave South Korea in order to avoid harm in the event of a nuclear war, according to USA Today. The message came Tuesday, just after the joint industrial zone, the last cross-border cooperation in the long-divided Korean peninsula, was closed last week.

Fearing drops in tourism numbers, the government officials in South Korea’s capital, Seoul, called a meeting Monday to discuss the escalating situation. The city is located just 118 miles from North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, and is well within range of hundreds – if not thousands – of North Korean artillery and missile units.But in reality, no country has issued alerts or warnings concerning travel to South Korea, and the country’s tourism numbers are up, writes CNN. Last week, the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) announced a record number of visitors for March, with the inbound international tourists numbering more than a million for the first time in history. Although tourism numbers are not yet available for April, Korean Air and several major hotels told the news outlet there has been no noticeable dip in bookings.

“North Korea has a long history of making confrontational rhetoric and empty threats to South Korea, the United States and other nations as well,” Sejoon You, the executive director of KTO’s New York office, said in an announcement to the travel industry. “All the experts in this matter, both international and based in the U.S., agree that there is no real or present danger that North Korea would act on its threats.”

“The real situation in Korea is completely normal, as the daily lives of the Korean people and its visitors remain peaceful, safe and uninterrupted,” You added. “Korea remains a safe, pleasant and beautiful destination to be enjoyed now and later. All hotels, airports, airlines, cities and attractions are operating normally.”

Our own Jonathan Kramer can attest to that. He’s on the ground in South Korea writing “The Kimchi-ite,” and shows no signs of stopping soon.

[Photo credit: The U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons]

Photo Of The Day: Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

photo of the day

This Photo of the Day, titled “Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge,” comes from Gadling Flickr pool member Bernard-SD, captured with a Cannon EOS 5D Mark II.

Not exactly friendly, it is one of the few ways to enter or leave North Korea. The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge carries automobile and rail traffic but not people, as pedestrians are not allowed to cross it. Of the image, Bernard-SD says:

“The Sino-Korean Friendship bridge connecting Dandong, China to Sinùiju, North Korea. Despite having a population of over 350,000 people, Sinùiju was shrouded in the dark. “

Want to be featured? Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as a Photo of the Day.

Tips for being featured: add a caption describing the image and (better yet) your personal experience when capturing it, details of the photography gear used and any tips you might have for others wanting to emulate your work.

Now, you can also submit photos through Instagram; just mention @GadlingTravel and use the hashtag #gadling when posting your images.

[Photo Credits Flickr user Bernard-SD]