Leader Kim Jong Un first allowed horse racing betting near Pyongyang, shortly after opening a casino for foreigners.
According to KCNA sources, many races took place at the Mirim Equestrian Club, a top development entertainment center built by President Kim Jong Un, located near Pyongyang. This club had its predecessor from an army rider training center with more than 120 horses, 67 are from Orlov Trotters, Russia.
Mirim Equestrian Club has an indoor training facility, equipment for 7 outdoor horseback riding courses, a lounge, a restaurant and a sauna. Admission is $ 35 for visitors and $ 10 for residents, including an hour of horseback riding with an instructor, use of equestrian equipment and a sauna. However, according to KCNA, this amount compared to the standard of living of Koreans is still very high.
North Korea’s central news agency said the government recently allowed citizens from the age of 12 to bet on horse racing.
Earlier, North Korea opened a casino for foreigners in the capital Pyongyang and the Rason region, where North Korea and China run a special economic zone.
In March, the government sent proposals to invest in new casinos in Namyang, near China’s border, and in the mountains of Kumkang, a scenic tourist area just north of the border with South Korea. However, the most recent United Nations sanctions have banned joint ventures with North Korean companies.
Economists say that allowing horseback betting is aimed at helping North Korea collect more foreign currency in the context that the country is affected by international sanctions due to the program. North Korea is banned from exporting some key commodities such as coal, textiles and seafood.
Lee Sang-keun, a researcher at the Unified Research Institute, Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said the top goal of the entertainment facilities opened was to serve the elite in Korea. Kim Jong Un may be mocked for building lavish entertainment facilities while people’s lives are still difficult. In fact, those jobs are intended to generate foreign currency, because when coming to these entertainment areas, tourists have to pay service fees in US dollars or yuan.
“Some Koreans make a lot of money from business, they can eat at hamburger restaurants and shopping. Those things increase the national budget. This is part of the reason North Korea still has plentiful financial resources, despite international sanctions”.