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Wednesday, 3rd February 2016

A little piece of North Korea in Cambodia ? the Grand Panorama Museum

A new museum not far from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site of Angkor has opened in Cambodia. The new attraction, which cost £24 million to create, is actually owned by North Korea, but can be found in Siem Reap and is worth considering for those visiting the area.

The main attraction at the museum is a mural of gargantuan proportions, depicting scenes from the Angkor period. It measures 120 metres in length; 13 metres in height; and makes up a complete 360-degree panorama. It was painted by Korean artists from Mansudae and is seen as an act of diplomacy with Cambodia.

A tour of the museum starts on a circular viewing deck, where murals showing events from the Cham War can be seen. They portray the Khmers and Vietnamese in combat during the conflict, which took place in 1471. These scenes are then replaced by depictions of the Bayon Temple being constructed, before Khmer daily life is finally visualised.

All of this is complemented by a man-made jungle fake trees, rocks and huts to help bring the Cambodia landscape to life. It has to be said that this is an unusual museum, but one that has to be visited to be understood.

Cambodia and North Korea have had a special relationship since the 1940s, when the heads of the two countries, Norodom Sihanouk and Kim Il-sung first became friends. Since then, various ventures, including Pyongyang themed restaurants have opened in Cambodia.

Hong Ki-chol, the North Korean ambassador to Cambodia told The Guardian: “I believe that Angkor Panorama Museum, one of the symbols of friendship and cooperation between the DPRK and the Kingdom of Cambodia, will contribute to further consolidate our traditional friendship.”

A report in the Japan Times recently said that the museum was not welcoming as many visitors as had been anticipated prior to its opening. In the first few months, just 30 people a day have been arriving to look at the exhibits.

There has been positive feedback from many tourists, however, with the main panorama being described as impressive and the animated film about Khmer history seen as informative. As it is located not far from the Angkor site, it’s possible that more visitors will decide to include it on their itineraries as it becomes well-known.



Related news stories:
5 things you didn't know about Cambodia (12th July 2016)
Understanding religious practices in Cambodia (9th July 2014)
Enrich your stay in Cambodia through charitable ventures! (20th November 2014)