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A few North Korean women work in a souvenir shop selling Mansudae acrylics and oils from between US0 to US,000.
“I’ve been here six months,” said one woman, declining the offer of an on-camera interview.
“They really feel like they are back in the time of Angkor,” he added, referring to the world heritage site which comprises the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries.
Behind him stands the museum’s piece de resistance, an enormous 360-degree panorama that 63 North Korean painters from the state-owned Mansudae Art Studio toiled away on for more than a year.
With 1,000 artists on the books the studio is often described as the world’s largest.
It churns out propaganda pieces and has long been the been the only outlet allowed to produce portraits of the Kim dynasty.
“When people come here sometimes they cannot believe their eyes,” said Yit Chandaroat, of the Angkor Panorama Museum, which opened in December after a construction process shrouded in secrecy.Koen de Ceuster, an expert on North Korean art from Leiden University in the Netherlands, says the operation is “very much a business venture”. “North Korea has discovered soft power, it has discovered cultural diplomacy ...they are trying to broaden the image of what North Korea is about,” he said.But Cambodia’s relations with the North remain strong even as Pyongyang deepens its pariah status with nuclear and missile tests that triggered a fresh round of tough UN sanctions earlier this month.
“Those family connections are not to be underestimated on the North Korean side in terms of the affection that the Kim family have for Cambodia specifically,” Adam Cathcart, a North Korea specialist at Britain’s Leeds University, said. It is the latest in a growing portfolio of artworks that Mansudae has built overseas.
“There are not so many people at the moment but we have only just opened.