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N Korea builds mysterious "panorama museum" in Cambodia

Last Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 13:56

Cambodia: North Korea`s first "tangible" monument in Cambodia, one of the reclusive state`s closest allies in Asia, is set to open soon in Siem Reap near the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex.

But the purpose of the nearly complete "panorama museum," 70 meters in diameter and 48 meters high, remains mysterious.

No one is quite sure if it is to earn foreign currency, to enhance North Korea`s political stature or simply to showcase North Korean technology.

It is to open, ostensibly as one of the world`s biggest artistic draws, before more than 1,200 representatives from the 190 member countries of the World Heritage Committee meet in Siem Reap from June 17-27.

The museum features 3-D computer-generated simulations of ancient monuments and Cambodian culture, via North Korean technology.

Saem, a Cambodian construction manager, said he has never worked in any construction project with such high technology and "superb concept" of enormous drawings and paintings.

Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and a well-known Cambodian archaeologist, told Kyodo News the monument is the first in Cambodia and the second North Korea has built abroad. It built first in Senegal.

But almost since the museum project began in August 2011, there have been concerns raised by some Cambodians and South Koreans.

They wonder if the project is meant to counterbalance South Korea`s growing presence in Cambodia or if it is simply to mark "friendship" between the deceased Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk and the deceased North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung.

Some familiar with the project said North Korea first wanted to showcase its own culture and images in Cambodia, but the plan was rejected until the North Koreans agreed their drawings, concepts and structures would apply to Cambodia`s cultural values.

The museum was first estimated to cost USD 17 million but it has been scaled back to USD 10 million - USD15 million, paid for by the North Korean government through the Mansudae Oversees Development Group.

In Senegal, Mansudae built a 49-meter bronze "Monument for the African Renaissance" that has caused outrage over where the money came from and where it went as well as the "Stalinist" style of the monument.

Other critics decry the Senegal monument because the body shapes depicted bear little resemblance to those of Africans.

The Cambodian project, many feel, is unlikely to be commercially successful and is offered, like the Senegal one, for North Korea`s political gain. (KYODO)


First Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 13:55

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