North Korean tour guides lead visitors through the regime’s latest cultural showpiece, a grand new panorama museum reported to have cost $24m. The museum’s showpiece is a 120m long, 13m high, 360° mural painted by the country’s lauded Mansudae studio artists. But this isn’t Pyongyang and the mural does not depict scenes of heroism by the ruling Kim dynasty. Instead the museum is in Siem Reap in Cambodia, a stone’s throw from the world heritage site of Angkor Wat but thousands of miles from the seat of the DPRK regime, and the paintings depict the Angkor era of 802 -1431.
Part grand design and part diplomacy project, the Angkor Panorama museum, which opened in December, is the latest cultural export North Korea hopes will bring in much-needed funds for its struggling economy. The ambitious centrepiece echoes the panoramic paintings at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War museum in Pyongyang – minus the North Korean propaganda. Walking the circular viewing deck, visitors start with horrific scenes from the Cham War between the Khmers and the Vietnamese before moving on to the construction of the famous Bayon Temple and ending with the daily life of Khmers.