• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Bern blocks Swiss ski lift sale to North Korea

Malcolm Curtis · 19 Aug 2013, 10:21

Published: 19 Aug 2013 10:21 GMT+02:00

Bartholet Machinenbau (BMF), based in Flums, signed a deal with Pyongyang to provide a cable car system for seven million francs ($7.55 million), German-language newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported.

However, last month the Swiss federal government at the last moment nixed the agreement, saying the ski lift qualified as a luxury item that cannot be exported to North Korea because of United Nations sanctions, the newspaper said.

The affected Swiss company is unhappy with the decision.

North Korea wants to boost tourism as a way to generate revenue and is planning to build a ski resort in the eastern part of the country.

The plans call for a ski area with 110 kilometres of trails, lifts, hotels and a heliport.

BMF was to deliver the parts for the cable car which were to be assembled on site by a Chinese partner of the Swiss company.

“The export would have posed no problem,” company chairman Roland Bartholet told SonntagsZeitung.

But the federal government decided to override the sale on the advice of the state secretariat for the economy (Seco), which classified the lift as a luxury product.

UN sanctions against the regime of Kim Jong-un forbid sales of luxury goods to North Korea.

The UN Security Council approved sanctions in March — following North Korea’s underground nuclear test — that impose penalties on North Korean banking, travel and trade.

Seco said the planned luxury ski resort is being built for “prestige and for propaganda” purposes of Kim’s regime.

According to a spokesman from the secretariat, it was inconceivable to imagine an ordinary North Korean citizen using the resort’s facilities.

Kim was exposed to Swiss ski resorts when he attended a private school as a teenager in Bern.

North Korea’s ambassador in Switzerland reportedly expressed his anger at the blocked sale during a meeting with Seco officials.

Story continues below…

But the federal government’s decision has been supported by foreign observers.

The issue comes to light as South Korea and the US begin a joint military exercise with 80,000 soldiers to test defence capabilities against a possible invasion from North Korea.

The exercise, which has angered North Korea, is the second this year, although it comes as tensions between North Korea and South Korea are starting to ease.

North Korea agreed on Sunday to a South Korean proposal to resume a programme next month that allows families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War to be reunited.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Banking
UBS share price tumbles on lower profit result
Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Swiss banking giant UBS on Tuesday saw its share price plummet after jittery investors helped push its first quarter net profit down by nearly two thirds.

Swiss school eyes longer holidays for non-smoking staff
File photo: Flickr

Staff at a school in the canton of Basel Country who provide a positive role model by not smoking should receive an extra week's holiday, one member of staff has suggested.

Refugee crisis
'Switzerland must shut itself off with barbed wire'
A man walks with his son in the Moria detention centre on the Greek Island of Lesbos in April. Photo: AFP

Swiss politician Andreas Glarner isn't afraid of controversy.

Tennis: Injured Federer pulls out of Madrid Open
Federer said he injured his back in practice on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Back problems have caused Roger Federer to pull out of the tournament in the Spanish capital.

Swiss may extradite Kosovan war crimes suspects: report
Swiss president and justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga is studying the case. Photo: AFP

Swiss authorities have arrested two Kosovans wanted by Serbia for suspected war crimes, but the question of where to extradite them to is stirring up diplomatic tensions, Swiss media report.

MPs say yes to cash for Switzerland’s 'slave kids'
Victims of historic abuse during the handover of a petition as part of "Repair", a public initiative calling for justice for victims of abuse in Bern in 2014. Photo: AFP

For decades, Swiss children were taken from their homes and forced to work as cheap labour. Some were sexually abused or underwent forced sterilization.

Swiss alpinist finds body of US climbing legend Alex Lowe
Speed Speed climber Steck (pictured) and his colleague David Göttler found the remains of Alex Lowe. Photo: AFP

Swiss mountain climber Ueli Steck has found the body of Alex Lowe more than 16 years after the American was buried by an avalanche in the Himalayas.

Hot stuff: Swiss winter was second warmest on record
Tourists ski on a thin layer of snow towards the resort of Leysin on December 28th. Photo: AFP

Only the winter of 2006/07 was warmer.

Family matters
Swiss canton boosts paternity leave to 5 days
Switzerland lags behind other European countries on the paternity leave issue. File photo: AFP

The move will send a positive message to the rest of Switzerland, supporters said before the vote.

Tour de Romandie
Cycling: Quintana wins Tour de Romandie
The Tour de Romandie is seen as a warm up and testing ground for the Tour de France. Photo: AFP

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana of the Movistar team won the Tour de Romandie on Sunday after a breakaway win in the fifth and final stage over 177.4km from Ollon-sur-Villars to Geneva on Sunday for local talent Michael Albasini.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Society
Swiss parliament snubs plan for two weeks paternity leave
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
File photo: Giovanni Blank
Lifestyle
Fathers should share parental leave, says commission
Photo: eGuide Travel
Society
Dictator-tracker spices up Geneva planespotting
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Politics
Swiss army ready to act in worst case migrant scenario
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Photo: Robert Zingg/Zurich Zoo
Lifestyle
Druk the elephant hauled to her feet by Zurich fire brigade
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Sport
Swiss champion snowboarder Estelle Balet killed by avalanche
Photo: Andreas Omvik/Zurich Tourism
Culture
Swiss 'groundhog day' forecasts lousy summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose International Health Insurance
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Technology
'Love-making couch' among inventions at Geneva show
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
Bank blacklists Swiss travel agent named Isis
Photo: Julien Gregario
National
Italian research student slain in Geneva street
Photo: Philippe Merle/AFP
Features
New Chaplin museum set in star's own 'Downton Abbey'
Photo: Gary Minnaert
Lifestyle
Name traditions still sway married Swiss women despite law change
Photo: Stephan Ridgway
Government eyes hefty fines for littering
Photo: Swiss Tourism
National
Revealed: the richest regions in Switzerland
Photo: Swiss National Bank
National
Switzerland's new 50 franc note: what you need to know
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
VIDEO: Swiss farmer's cows leap for joy of spring
Politics
Automatic expulsion of criminal foreigners rejected at the ballot box
National
UK's Duchess of York seeks to become resident of Verbier
National
City of Geneva to translate information into English
National
Female guard at prison near Zurich 'helped Syrian flee jail'
National
Swiss residential real estate 'bubble risk' continues to rise
4,541
jobs available