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N. Korea earns hard currency at Angkor Wat relics in Cambodia

N. Korea earns hard currency at Angkor Wat relics in Cambodia

Updated January. 08, 2014 03:52

한국어

A culture and history museum that North Korea constructed at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a world-famous tourist attraction by investing 15 million U.S. dollars will reportedly be launched soon.

Quoting the Phnom Penh Post, British newspaper The Independent carried a report on Monday, saying that North Korea constructed the “Grand Panorama Museum” within Cambodian tourism city of Siem Reap, where the ruins of Angkor are located. In return for donating the museum to Cambodia, North Korea will reportedly secure the right to operate the facility for 10 years and collect entrance fees.

The museum, whose construction was spearheaded by North Korean artists` group Mansudae Art Studio, is the largest construction project that the North has ever conducted overseas. The museum features a large mural measuring 120 meters across and 13 meters high, which displays daily living, culture and history of the Khmer Empire that bloomed during the 8th Century and 15th Century. Also on display at the museum are scenery of Mount Baekdu and a painting of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthplace. The facility also comes with a 3-D theater and a "VIP room." A North Korean official at the site was quoted by The Independent as saying, “More than 50 artists affiliated with Mansudae Art Studio drew the mural in person, and installed sculptures.”

Analysts say that the North, whose economy is in shambles, constructed the museum at Angkor Wat by itself with the aim of earning hard currency and expand its diplomatic influence on Cambodia.

A source in the U.K. government said “The project is definitely going to be a funnel for making money for North Korea, which is facing economic sanctions” adding, “The launch of the museum, which was originally scheduled to open in late last year, has been delayed because the North is negotiating a measure to increase the entrance fee by including the entrance fee in the free pass (40 U.S. dollars) that allows visitors to tour the entire Angkor Wat relics for three days.” If Phnom Penh accepts the measure, tourists who visit Angkor Wat come to pay cash to North Korea, even if they don’t tour the museum, which might stir up controversy.

The North had maintained brotherhood relationship with Cambodia since the time when Kim Il Sung was in power. However, relations between the two countries deteriorated after the death of King Norodom Sihanouk in 2012. As South Korea emerged as Cambodia’s No. 2 investor, however, North Korea is striving to recover friendly ties with the Southeast country. The North is running three restaurants in Cambodia, and is preparing to open the fourth restaurant.

Mansudae Art Studio comprised of more than 4,000 artists signed contracts with African countries, including Angola, Namibia, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has constructed public artworks and memorial structures worth 150 million U.S. dollars thus far. The right to operate more than 60 chain restaurants run by the North’s government, and run Mansudae Art Studio is reportedly reserved by Kim Kyong Hui, the wife of Jang Song Thaek who was executed late last year and younger sister of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.