Archive for the ‘Mansudae Overseas Development Group’ Category

Mansudae ODG building Angkor e-museum

Sunday, December 6th, 2015


Pictured Above (Google Earth, 2012-10-26): An image of the Angkor E-Museum under construction in Siem Reap Cambodia

UPDATE 7 (2016-2-1): The Guardian publishes more information on the museum.

UPDATE 6 (2015-12-6): The museum opens! According to the Khmer Times:

After five years of building and delays, the $24 million Angkor Panorama Museum in Siem Reap was opened on Friday by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, cementing growing ties between the Kingdom and North Korea, especially in Siem Reap.

Mr. Sok An said the 6,000 square meter building reinforced both cultural and economic ties.

The project was signed in 2011, under which North Korea’s Mansudea Overseas Project Group will run the museum with the government under a build-operate-and-transfer operation for 10 years until it is handed over to the Apsara Authority.

In the meantime, profits will be split evenly.

“We did not sell this land. We have a joint committee and we studied the investment project on all fronts before the government approved it. We treat foreign investment equally,” said Mr. Sok An.

“We need more tourist products such as this to attract visitors to Cambodia. The museum… is another tourism attraction that features, through the painting [mural] inside the museum, how our Khmer ancestors went about their daily activities during Angkorian time,” he said at the opening ceremony attended by an estimated 1,000 people, including South and North Koreans.

The project caused concern with South Korea, fearing it could be used for propaganda in the province, which is the country’s biggest tourist attraction. The Angkor Wat temple complex was listed for protection by the UN cultural organization UNESCO in 1992.

The new museumincludes work from 63 North Korean artists.

North Korean ambassador Hong Ki Chol told the crowd: “It was well built in a picturesque place, surrounded by Angkor temples – the pride of Khmers. We are proud that this museum was built to show Cambodian culture in the prestigious era of Angkor.”

“I am confident the museum will make a positive contribution to giving a comprehensive understanding of ideas about all the Angkor temples and promote tourism,” he said.

Cambodia received 4.5 million tourists last year, a 20 percent increase on the previous year and accounting for about 16 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The Kingdom is targeting 8 million tourists by 2020.

“We want to see tourists stay longer in Cambodia,” said Mr. Sok An, who is also chairman of the Apsara Authority. ”The longer they stay, the more it benefits our people and the economy.”

UPDATE 5 (2014-6-14): The museum is still not open. According to an article in the Phnom Penh Post:

Siem Reap is home to North Korea’s first overseas museum, a $15 million tribute to Angkor set in a Khmer-style building which is not yet open to the public.

Although construction began in August 2011, the doors have still not opened and the car park has not been built.

The operations manager, who gave his name only as Kim, said the museum would open in three or four months, and blamed the delay on the unfinished car park and ticketing booth.

But sources within the South Korean community say the slow progress is due to the plan to build an information centre about the temples, which has caused a rift with the Apsara authority, which manages the complex.

UPDATE 4 (2104-1-20): It is January 2014, and the Museum still has not opened. A recent visitor, however, offers images of the museum and some details. According to the article:

The Grand Panorama Museum is a gift to cement the “glorious friendship between Korea and Cambodia”, says a young translator from Pyongyang, capital of the hermit state.

The building site is still strictly off-limits as I visit but, despite the secrecy, the man in charge relents and provides a short tour.

The museum is right next to the new ticket booths for the temple complex. The avowed aim is to take visitors back to the heyday of Khmer culture, which flourished in Angkor between the 12th and 15th centuries.

The museum’s interpretation is not so much scholarly as glitzy, with otherworldly music and coloured lights. It also showcases the North Korean style of ultra-realist painting. A huge face of the Buddha looms at the entrance.

“A true-scale copy of the stone-hewn figures at the Bayon Temple,” says the building chief. The giant painting looks remarkably like a photograph. “Exactly,” beams the official. “But it’s not a photograph – it’s Korean art.”

The big Buddha is a product of the Mansudae art factory in Pyongyang, which employs a thousand artists turning out paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolours in the “social realist” style. Abstraction is not allowed.

The panorama is viewed from a platform in the centre of a circular room. The entire wall is a single vast picture, 13 metres tall and 130 long. It depicts the many temples and everyday scenes from the 12th-century Khmer era – or at least daily life as imagined by North Korean artists.

The official word is that all the scenes were painted “following consultations with Cambodian historians”, the site supervisor is anxious to point out. The finished product is strong on battles, with lots of bloodshed.

“We have a panoramic museum like this in Pyongyang too,” says the supervisor. Is it about ancient Korean history? “No, it’s about the Americans’ war.”

The illusion of being at the centre of the Khmer empire is extended by all manner of fake walls, cannons and plastic trees between the raised platform and the panorama wall. The models carefully match the objects visible in the painted panorama.

“We will have wind and fog-making machines so that the trees will rustle,” says the young translator.

The museum also offers scale models of the sprawling temple complex and a 3D theatre where films depicting temple construction will be screened.

North Korean art is on sale in the foyer, along with cute souvenir dolls dressed in what the North Koreans say is the authentic Khmer national costume.

One huge oil painting in the shop is definitely not for sale. It depicts a snow-covered landscape in Korea’s mountains with a little hut in the foreground highlighted by a shaft of sunlight.

“That is the birthplace of our Great Leader,” the supervisor says reverently. “The picture is here on loan.” The late North Korean founding father Kim Il-sung is revered like a god.

The article offers some pictures as well:



UPDATE 3 (2013-1-8): NK News explains some of the features the museum will contain and reports that it will open in April 2013.

UPDATE 2 (2011-11-26): Accoridng to AKP (Cambodia):

Cambodia has allowed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to build a cultural information centre (or welcome centre) in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor, as part of the government’s effort to attract more tourists, according to the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers.

In a meeting on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Dr. Sok An told the North Korean Ambassador H.E. Ri In Sok that Cambodia’s Apsara Authority is working with North Korean experts to build the centre, which will serve as a welcome centre for tourists who want information about Cambodia’s Angkorian history.

Officials of the Apsara Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap are working with 60 Korean experts and concerned institutions to ensure that the building design will feature the cultural values of both Cambodia and Korea.

The building, 70 metres in diameter and 124 metres in height, will be decorated with artistic works and drawings. Korean officials say that the world’s biggest artistic drawing will be displayed at the centre.

Dr. Sok An, who is also Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, told the ambassador that the centre will represent not only the image of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea but also the good bilateral relations of the two Asian nations.

The outgoing North Korean Ambassador Ri In Sok, who is leaving Cambodia on Nov. 26 after a four-year term, told Dr. Sok An that North Korea wants unification with South Korea as soon as possible.

The ambassador was grateful to the deputy prime minister and the Royal Government of Cambodia as a whole for facilitating his diplomatic mission in Cambodia.

“I am pleased with the bilateral cooperation. I am pleased with the tremendous progress made by Cambodia over the past years,” said Ambassador Ri In Sok in the meeting.

The ambassador said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues its good relations with the Royal Government of Cambodia thanks to the diplomatic legacy of the relations between His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, now retired, and the late Kim Il-Sung, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Additional information:

1. Voice of America also picked up this story

2. NK Leadership Watch also covered the story.

3. The Mansudae Overseas Development Group (MODG) is also building/has already built an e-museum in Siem REap. Learn more here.

4. Here are previous posts on the DPRK and Cambodia.

UPDATE 1 (2011-8-3): Construction is underway on the project.  According to the Global Post:

A wall of royal blue sheet metal obscures the North Koreans’ operation from public view. When I approached the entrance, a man in a fedora and a tank top rushed over to slam the gate shut. A furtive look inside revealed fewer than a dozen scrawny workers and a scrub grass field still void of much construction.

Though local reports vary, North Korea will be paid between $10 and $17 million for some sort of monument or museum near the temples. The head of Cambodia’s culture ministry, Khem Sarith, confirmed construction of an “e-museum” but could not confirm the cost.

Nor could he explain why a country that offers its citizens scant electricity should win an “electronic museum” contract, especially after its monuments abroad have drawn both condemnation and ridicule.

The full story is well worth reading here:
North Korea propaganda unit builds monuments abroad
Global Post
Patrick Winn

ORIGINAL POST (2010-4-27): According to the AFP (Via the Straits Times in Singapore):

A controlversial North Korean construction company is in talks to build an ‘e-museum’ of Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples, a senior official said on Monday.

Mansudae Overseas Projects wants to build a museum close to the temple complex that will feature a computer-generated simulation of the ancient monuments, Cambodian Culture Ministry secretary of state Khem Sarith told AFP.

‘They have plans to build an electronic museum detailing the history of Angkor Wat temples,’ he said, adding he supported the plans after discussions last week with a company delegation and North Korean ambassador Ri In Sok.

Previous work by the North Korean company building major monuments in African countries has been criticised for lack of transparency. Its 49-metre bronze Monument for the African Renaissance has caused outrage in Senegal over the sale of government land to finance the project and the president’s plan to keep 35 per cent of any profit it generates.

Mr Khem Sarith said the so-called e-museum would be ‘good for tourists to view the temples and then select the one that they want to see’. Studies and more discussion were still needed before construction could start on the digitally-rendered overview, Khem Sarith said. He said he would meet again with officials from the company in June to discuss the project further.

The 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex is Cambodia’s main tourist attraction. It is located in the northwestern province of Siem Reap, where the ancient Khmer empire built some 1,000 temples spread over 160 square kilometres.

I have pretty extensive list of Mansudae Overseas Development Group projects from across the planet.  If you are aware of a North Korean built project in your country, please let me know.

(Thanks to a reader)

Read the full story here:
‘e-museum’ of Angkor temples
AFP (Straits Times)
John Cosgrove


Zimbabwe signs $5m contracts with DPRK for statue and museum

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The cost of Bona Mugabe’s wedding on March 1, attended by the heads of state of South Africa, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea at Mugabe’s private home in Harare’s plush Borrowdale suburb, cost $5 million.

Just after the wedding, plans leaked out that Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) government clandestinely signed North Korea, one of its old friends, to build two statues of Mugabe at an estimated cost of $5 million.

The statues were commissioned by the minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo.

One is a nearly 30-foot high bronze image worth $3.5 million to be placed in Harare; the other is a $1.5 million version to be placed in a $3.8 million museum to be built in Mugabe’s rural Zvimba home, in Mashonaland West. Building statues of leaders is something North Korea has considerable experience doing.

Read more about the story at Bloomberg and Bulawayo 24.

I have documented many of North Korea’s Africa projects on this web page.  See here.

Read the full story here:
Mugabe splashes $5m on N. Korea statues
Christian Science Monitor
Mxosili Ncube


Mansudae Art Studio repaired German fountain

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

According to Bloomberg:

In November 2005, two Germans flew to North Korea on official business. Their goal was not to discuss nuclear disarmament or diplomatic relations. Rather, they went to check on the progress of a sculptural commission: the reconstruction of Frankfurt’s so-called Fairy Tale Fountain, an art nouveau relic from 1910 that had been melted down for its metal during World War II.

Blueprints for the original Fairy Tale Fountain had gone missing, and the City of Frankfurt needed sculptors who could work from old photographs to re-create the naked beauty gazing down on an array of cherubic children and enormous water-spewing reptiles and fish. For this intricate job, the Germans had turned to Pyongyang’s Mansudae Art Studio.

Klaus Klemp, deputy director of Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Art, discovered Mansudae back in 2004 and was impressed enough by the craftsmanship to convince Frankfurt officials to hire the atelier. “It was a purely technical decision,” he says. “The top tier artists in Germany simply don’t make realist work anymore. North Koreans on the other hand haven’t experienced the long evolution of modern art; they are kind of stuck in the early 1900s, which is exactly when this fountain was made.” North Korea’s price tag for reconstructing the ornate bronze fountain was also attractive: €200,000, including shipping and handling.

In Pyongyang, Ministry of Culture officials escorted Klemp and his colleague, Philipp Sturm, to an expansive, well-lit factory space hung with banners touting slogans like, “When the Party Gives Orders, We Execute!” and “Self-Sustenance Is the Only Path To Survival!” There, a full-size plaster model of the German fountain stood among other works-in-progress, including a 25-foot-tall white marble statue of North Korea’s first leader, and a smaller statue of three revolutionary heroes, one of them brandishing an enormous flag.

The quality of the work was impeccable, but the Germans did have one complaint: Their art nouveau fountain had been rendered with a slightly hard, angular communist touch. “The woman had kind of a cement block hairdo,” recalls Sturm. “It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed. We explained to the head sculptor that the socialist realist style wasn’t really in vogue in Frankfurt at the moment. He was very receptive and softened the look accordingly.”

Germany is the only Western democracy to have hired Mansudae’s art army, and it did so before North Korea further sank into isolation by launching the country’s first nuclear and missile tests in 2006. “There’s no question that North Korea was a criminal country, even then,” says Klemp, but Germany at the time hoped a policy of rapprochement might help the Hermit Kingdom embark on a better, more humanitarian path. “It would be very difficult to hire them today,” Klemp says.

Frankfurt’s Fairy Tale Fountain was completed entirely in North Korea, and went off without a hitch. The Germans took precautions early on to supply Mansudae’s sculptors with photos of European children, so the sculptures “wouldn’t end up looking too Korean,” says Klemp. “We knew that could be a problem, but so did they.” Once complete, the fountain got shipped from China to Hamburg, and then trucked to Frankfurt where it was installed. “We were all really pleased with the work,” says Klemp. “Everything was done on time, and everyone we worked with was exceptionally professional and personable … for me, the most interesting part was how normal it all was.”

Read the full story here:
Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s Colossal Monument Factory
Caroline Winter


Mansu Studio statue in Zimbabwe to be replaced…

Thursday, May 12th, 2011


UPDATE 2 (2011-5-12): Zanu-PF has decided to re-erect the Nkomo statue.  According to the Zimdiaspora:

The controversial statue of the late vice president Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo will be re-erected in Bulawayo’s city centre after Zanu PF bigwigs agreed to put up the giant North Korean designed effigy.

Zanu PF officials said President Robert Mugabe appointed Environment Minister Francis Nhema who is Nkomo’s son-in-law to be in charge of the raising of statue along Main Street.

The statue was removed last year following widespread outcry by the Nkomo family but latest details show that the family has backtracked following Nhema’s persuasion. The soft-spoken Nhema is married to Louise Sehlule, one of the late nationalist’s daughters.

In the past two months, sources said Nhema, who chairs the Joshua Nkomo Foundation, has been making frequent visits to Bulawayo where he also met senior politicians to lobby for the re-erection of the statue, which drew anger from the Nkomo and Bulawayo community because it was made in North Korea—a country known for training the notorious 5th Brigade soldiers who killed over 20 000 civilians, raping 60,000 women.

Nhema met vice president John Nkomo, politburo members, Joshua Malinga, Eunice Sandi and Angeline Masuku as he drummed up support for the statue to be re-erected.

After the uprooting of the statue, it was later agreed that it would be put at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo airport on the outskirts of Bulawayo but there were reservations that the public would not be able to view it since it will be kilometers away.

“It’s a matter of time before the statue is put back along Main Street. Zanu PF doesn’t want to be seen as failures by conceding to pressure from the Nkomo family and the people of Matabeleland,” said a top Zanu PF official.

The latest revelation to re-erect the statue comes against a backdrop of efforts by former Zipra commanders to block the move, saying Mugabe, 87, should first return Zipra buildings to its rightful owners. Some of the buildings include Magnet House, which houses the dreaded CIOs in Bulawayo.

Although Nhema was not answering his mobile phone Thursday, a politburo meeting Wednesday vowed that the statue would be erected again.

UPDATE 1 (2011-1-23): The statue was mentioned in this New York Times article

ORIGINAL  POST (2010-9-17): According to

Public anger over a decision to allow a North Korean firm to make a statue of a Zimbabwean freedom fighter resulted in government plans to take it down before its unveiling, according to reports Thursday.

The three-metre bronze statue of Joshua Nkomo had been under threat by the family of the deceased leader of the Ndebele ethnic group. They had vowed to tear it down, angered that the Zimbabwean subsidiary of a North Korean company had created it.

In the mid-1980s, North Korean military instructors, invited by President Robert Mugabe, trained a brigade that went on to kill thousands of Ndebele citizens during a low-intensity insurgency.

‘It was highly insensitive of the government to have hired the North Koreans to produce the statue without consulting Nkomo’s family or the people of Matabeleland,’ said political analyst Grace Mutandwa. ‘Let’s just say the North Koreans are not the Ndebele’s favourite people.’

After its completion, the statue remained covered by a black cloth on a plinth until Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi removed the shroud Wednesday, announcing plans to dismantle it ‘with immediate effect.’

Originally, Mugabe had planned to participate in a public unveiling of the statue.

In the 1960s, Nkomo became the first national leader of the fight by blacks against the white minority government of Ian Smith. He led a rival faction to Mugabe’s in the 1970s before independence in 1980 and Mugabe’s election as prime minister.

Shortly after, Mugabe accused Nkomo and his ZAPU party of being behind an insurgency and launched a crackdown in western Zimbabwe, in which thousands of civilians were killed or disappeared. Nkomo died of prostate cancer in 1999, aged 82.

This is not the first time this year the Ndebele have protested over North Korea’s relations with Zimbabwe.

The North Korean national football team had been due to train in Bulawayo before the World Cup in neighbouring South Africa in June and July, but the visit was called off after Ndebele groups vowed to disrupt their training.

And according to Zimeye:

[A] statue of the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo was unveiled on Wednesday, but a minister said it would be immediately pulled down “following objections by his family and the Bulawayo community”.

A family spokesman said the statue, mounted at the intersection of Main Street and 8th Avenue was “small and pitiful”.

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi met Nkomo’s family for four hours on Tuesday as he unsuccessfully tried to reach an agreement on the three-metre-tall bronze statue which was erected over a month ago, and remained covered in a black cloth until Wednesday.

The meeting in Harare was also attended by Vice President John Nkomo, a relative of the late nationalist leader who died in July, 1999. Mohadi revealed John Nkomo was joined in the objections with the rest of the family.

Mohadi, who attended Wednesday’s unceremonious unveiling, said: “I have come here with bad news … to tell you that we will pull down and dismantle this statue with immediate effect.

“From the day when this statue was erected, the family objected and we have been receiving calls as to when the statue will be dismantled.

“We made extensive consultations and apparently Vice President John Nkomo shares the same sentiments with them, and as such we are complying with the wishes of the Nkomo family to remove the statue.”

Mohadi has refused to say where the statue was made and at what cost, although some reports say it was cast by a North Korean artist. It will be removed to the National Museum.

A senior government source revealed Mohadi had spoken to President Robert Mugabe after the tense meeting with Nkomo’s family.

“The President told Mohadi to ‘leave them (Nkomo’s family)’. He also said he was disappointed with John Nkomo for failing to take a principled stand,” the source said.

Mohadi, whose ministry commissioned two statues – the other designated for Harare – appeared to take the failure to get the statue to stand in Bulawayo personally.

He said: “It is unfair to myself and the ministry because we thought this was a government project that we initiated in honour of Dr Nkomo, but because the family objects to it we find it proper to concede to their plea and have no option but to abandon the project.

“With me, it is the end of the project indefinitely and I do not think we will do anything about it. The budget on it has been wasted.”

Mohadi disclosed contents of an August 31 letter he received from Nkomo’s daughter Thandiwe outlining 11 points of objection.
The family said there was no consultation on the final prototype, characteristics, and proposed locations of the statue.

“The statue itself is very small and pitiful, hardly a street statue at all nor the landmark and monument that it should be,” the family added.

The design of the statue said nothing about Nkomo and his historical legacy, the letter went on, and the size and colour of the 1,2 metre pedestal it was installed on “does not match the lofty stature of the late Father Zimbabwe.”

The family said it was not objecting to the principle of immortalising Nkomo with a statue, but wanted adequate consultations before work on a new one commenced. The family also wants the statue installed at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo.

The planned erection of a second statue in Harare — already mired in legal troubles — now appears unlikely to go ahead. The owners of the Karigamombe Centre, the proposed site of the statue, have obtained a court order stopping the erection.

This story was eventually picked up by the Associated Press on September 29th:

The two North Korean-made statues were meant to honor a national hero but people were so offended because of Pyongyang’s links to a blood-soaked chapter of Zimbabwe’s history that one was taken down almost immediately and the other has not been erected.

Besides, at least one of them didn’t even resemble Joshua Nkomo, a former guerrilla leader known as “Father Zimbabwe” who died in 1999 at the age of 82.

That the statues were designed and made by North Koreans is an affront to Zimbabweans who blame North Korean-trained troops loyal to President Robert Mugabe for massacring thousands of civilians as the government tried to crush an uprising led by Nkomo in the 1980s. The uprising ended when Nkomo signed a unity pact in 1987 and became a vice president.

No offense was intended by the choice of North Korea to make the statues, Godfrey Mahachi, head of the state National Museums and Monuments, told The Associated Press. He said North Korea was chosen simply because it won the bid for the work, promising favorable prices.

One of the Nkomo statues was erected briefly last month in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-biggest city, on the site where a statue of British colonial era leader Cecil John Rhodes once stood. Nkomo’s family called his statue artistically “ineffectual.”

While there were no organized protests, criticisms were widespread before the unveiling. Nkomo’s relatives were quoted in newspapers complaining that they had not been consulted. Simon Dube, a Bulawayo businessman, said the Nkomo statue was shrouded under a black cloth under police guard. Dube, who glimpsed it, said the statue’s head was too small for Nkomo’s famously heavy and imposing build.

Organizers kept the police on hand during the unveiling ceremony and took the statue down within hours.

The other statue was to have been placed in the capital, Harare, outside an office tower known as Karigamombe, which in the local Shona language means “taking the bull by the horns and slaying it.” Some saw that as adding insult to injury: the symbol of Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union party and his former guerrilla army was a rampaging bull.

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said that despite the kerfuffle, the North Koreans have been paid their $600,000 for the two statues, state media reported.

Mahachi said officials are considering where else to put the two 3-meter (10 foot) statues.

“We still have to look at different options. They might go to museums, but that will be discussed to reach a final decision,” he said.

The Bulawayo statue is for the time being kept at the Bulawayo Natural History Museum, where the deposed statue of Rhodes is also kept.

Nkomo spent his adult life fighting colonialism and was also imprisoned for a decade for his political activism against white rule in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was previously called. “Father Zimbabwe” spearheaded black nationalist resistance to white rule well before Mugabe came on the scene. Nkomo’s image has appeared on postage stamps and the Bulawayo international airport has been named after him.


Korea General Corporation for External Construction

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

UPDATE: Lots of great information in the comments.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Naenara (Link won’t work from South Korea):

The Korea General Corporation for External Construction (GENCO) is a professional enterprise for overseas construction.

GENCO has gained a good reputation from many countries around the world as a credible constructor with a long history of 50 years since its inauguration in January 1961.

It has scores of affiliated building enterprises involving a number of designers, building operators and skilled workers as well as foreign languages and other experts.

GENCO has built lots of dwellings and public establishments in Kuwait, and recently completed the 64-storied Al-Fardan Tower, an ordered project, in a short span of time in Qatar.

GENCO is looking forward to contracts for construction projects such as dwelling houses, public buildings, metros, tunnels, bridges, airports, harbours and stadiums in different countries in diverse forms such as the whole construction work and dispatch of skilled workers.

I had assumed that all overseas constructions projects were under the auspices of the Mansudae Overseas Development Group (MODG), but it appears that there is a rival firm picking up construction contracts.  This would not be surprising since the DPRK often duplicates functions so that the leadership is not reliant on a singe source of information and revenue–plus a little competition between agencies offers the employees an incentive to increase profits which they can remit back to Pyongyang.  It could also be the case that th GENCO and MODG have split the market.  MODG sticks to monuments and GENCO sticks to more traditional construction projects.

Pictured below is a Google Earth image of the Al Fardan Towers in Doha, Qatar (25.320952°, 51.529404°):

I am not sure to what extent GENCO was involved in the project. They claim to have built one of the towers, but I find it hard to believe that they built the whole thing lock, stock, and barrel since it would be impossible to develop the necessary skills in the DPRK. Additionally, there are no comparable buildings in the DPRK.  In all liklihood, GENCO is a company that simply provides construction workers who are low cost and travel from job to job remitting their hard currency earnings back to the DPRK.

Here are some, though not all, previous posts about other construction projects by MODG or GENCO.  Although I have not published it, I have an extensive list of these projects on Google Earth.

If a reader is aware of GENCO’s construction projects in Kuwait, please let me know.


DPRK workers in Angola

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The Agostinho Neto Center of Culture is a massive national park that the Angolan government is building on 12,000 sq. m of land in the capital city Luanda in memory of its first president. On Oct. 24, the entrance was firmly shut with a black iron gate. Through barred windows, three or four Asian workers could be seen: they are staff of North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, which earns much-needed foreign currency for the regime from massive construction projects and monumental sculpture in the developing world.

Initially, the Agostinho Neto Center was commissioned to a Brazilian construction company, but work came to a halt until the North Koreans took over at the end of 2007.

The North Korean workers are living together in temporary wooden accommodation in a corner of the construction site. There are reportedly 100 to 120 of them in Angola. North Korea supported independence movements and civil wars of some African countries, and has been involved in some large construction projects there based on the diplomatic ties built this way. The North provided military aid to the side currently in power during the Angolan civil war and is reportedly building other parks and peace monuments in Cabinda and Huambo, one or two hours away by plane from Luanda.

The Daily NK reported North Korea has earned at least US$160 million in construction projects in Africa since 2000. A South Korean resident in Angola said, “Although North Korean workers only get minimum living cost from their government, they make additional money by working on smaller-scale projects locally when they have some spare time waiting for equipment or materials to arrive.”

One North Korean worker said, “When we go to the site for work, we sometimes get Angolan traditional congee called Fungi. It’s delicious. We eat better here than in North Korea because we can get rice from Chinese construction firms.”

In a predominantly black residential area in Luanda, there is a pharmacy run by a North Korean doctor in a shabby one-story building. “I work at a national hospital in the morning, and run this pharmacy privately in the afternoon. This is the only way I can make the ends meet,” he said.

According to a local source, there are about 180 North Korean doctors across Angola, including about a dozen in Luanda. There are also North Korean doctors in Mozambique and Congo, and some practice oriental medicine. At the pharmacy, acupuncture costs $80 for the first treatment and $40 thereafter.

Read the full story here:
N.Koreans Struggle for Hard Currency in Africa
Choson Ilbo


DPRK delivers Kasavubu statue to Kinshasa

Friday, August 13th, 2010

UPDATE: Google just updated their satellite imagery over Kinshasa.  Now we can see where the statue is located:

ORIGINAL POST: The DPRK’s Mansudae Overseas Development Group has designed and built many buildings and statues across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  I have been trying to map out these projects on Google Earth.

The most recent project appears to be the statue of Joseph Kasavubu in the DR Congo.  June 30th 2010 was the DRC’s 50th independence day and the statue of its first president was unveiled as part of the celebrations:

Here is a story in French about the unveiling of the new statue.

Using Google Translate, I pulled out the following blurbs:

(June 29, 2010) President Joseph Kabila unveiled Tuesday in Kimpwanza Square in the town of Kasavubu, to the cheers of the people, the monument to the first president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kasavubu.

It is a bronze monument of 5 tons, 5.45 meters high.

The story incorrectly notes that the statue was made in South Korea.

I have so far been unable to locate the square where this statue is located.  Help appreciated. A reader called “NKObserver” identifies the location here: 4° 20′ 17.19S 15° 18′ 18.38″E.

Additional information:

1. Here is a set of photos of the statue taken by a visitor.

2. Here is an interesting video clip of a Chinese protest of Kasavubu in 1961 featuring Zhou Enlai.

3. Here are previous posts on the Mansudae Overseas Development Group.  They do not reflect all the projects I have identified, but if you know of any others, please pass the information to me.


Mansudae Overseas Development Group Projects

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

North Korea has earned more than $160 million in the last ten years thanks to the construction of sculptures and other edifices in countries across Africa.

A Daily NK source in China revealed on the 18th, “Since 2000, North Korea has been earning colossal quantities of dollars through contracts for the Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies under the Mansudae Art Institute to construct sculptures.”

Mansudae Art Institute is an organization primarily dedicated to the idolization of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il through public works, one whose construction of edifices such as the Juche Tower and Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang has added to the status of the country.

It has also been building revolutionary monuments in African countries such as Ethiopia since the 1970s in order to maintain cordial relations with socialist states, but in the early 2000s started doing work in African countries to earn foreign currency as well.

According to the source, North Korea has earned $66.03 million from Namibia alone thanks to the construction of the Presidential Palace ($49 million); the Cemetery of National Heroes ($5.23 million); a military museum ($1.8 million); and Independence Hall ($10 million).

It has also earned almost $55 million from Angola via the António Agostinho Neto culture center ($40 million); Cabinda Park ($13 million); and the Peace Monument ($1.5 million).

Additionally, the North has constructed a basketball stadium ($14.4 million) and an athlete academic center ($4.8 million) in the Congo, earning almost $20 million dollars in total.

Thanks to the Monument to the African Renaissance in Senegal, the North has made another $12 million dollars.

There are around 19.8㎢ set aside for a vacation spot for the president of Equatorial Guinea, which is supposed to earn Mansudae around $800,000, not to mention a government office building ($1.5 million), Luba Stadium ($6.74 million) and conference halls ($3.5 million).

The source also reported, “The money earned from these construction projects is managed by the No. 39 Department. Some of these dollars are used for domestic governance, while the rest go to secret accounts in Switzerland or Macau to become Kim Jong Il’s secret funds.”

Here are the images from the story including a table of financial data (which I would take with a grain of salt):

dnk-mansudae-1.jpg dnk-mansudae-2.jpg dnk-mansudae-3.jpg dnk-mansudae-4.jpg dnk-mansudae-5.jpg dnk-mansudae-6.jpg dnk-mansudae-7.jpg

Additional Information:

1. I blogged here about the Derg Monument in Ethiopia.

2. I have located some of the Mansudae Overseas projects mentioned in this story (as well as numerous other places not menioned in this story: Egypt and Syria, Zimbabwe, DR Congo). However, here are GeoEye satellite images of some of the Namibia and Angola projects mentioned above courtesy of Google Earth:  

Namibia National Heroes Acre (22°39’46.02″S,  17° 4’41.06″E):


Namibia State House (22°35’28.83″S,  17° 6’2.76″E)


Cultural Center of António Agostinho Neto (Mausoleum) (8°49’24.73″S,  13°13’8.52″E)




Monument to the African Renaissance Unveiled

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Click image for larger version

UPDATE 6:  According to KCNA:

Kim Yong Nam Attends Unveiling Ceremony

Pyongyang, April 4 (KCNA) — Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly on an official goodwill visit to Senegal, participated in the ceremony for unveiling the “Monument to Revival of Africa” on Saturday.

The monument represents in a formative artistic way the strong stamina and will of the African people to bring about their bright future by their own efforts while aspiring after independence and building of a new society. It has been successfully built in a short span of time with help of Korean technicians.

Present at the ceremony were Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and heads of state and government from at least 20 African countries, representatives of different international and regional organizations, diplomatic envoys of different countries in Dakar and thousands of its citizens.

Incumbent and former presidents of African countries and representatives of international and regional organizations said at the ceremony that this wonderfully-built monument is pride of not only Senegal but also Africa.

They expressed belief that the African people would make greater progress with the conviction of the future.

UPDATE 5: Senegal unveils £17m African Renaissance statue built by North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Investment Group.  According to the Gaurdian:

Senegal’s vast African Renaissance monument was unveiled yesterday amid criticism that the 49-metre bronze statue is a presidential vanity project and waste of money.

The representation of a man, woman and child emerging from a volcano was inaugurated at a ceremony featuring hundreds of drummers and dancers.

The statue, which cost £17m and is taller than the Statue of Liberty, stands on a hill overlooking the capital, Dakar. It marks Senegal’s 50 years of independence, and the president, Abdoulaye Wade has said he hopes it will become a tourist attraction.

Wade, 83, who is expected to seek another term in office at elections in 2012, said the monument commemorated the entire continent. “It brings to life our common destiny,” Reuters reported him saying at the launch ceremony. “Africa has arrived in the 21st century standing tall and more ready than ever to take its destiny into its hands.”

Wade has faced criticism for spending so much money on the structure when Dakar residents living in its shadow endure regular power blackouts and flooding. He has angered both Senegal’s Christian minority and some within the Muslim majority population.

Wade apologised to the former group after likening the monument to Christ, while some imams have condemned the Soviet realist-style statue as idolatrous. Other have expressed concern at the thigh-length hemline skirt worn by the female figure.

UPDATE 4: According to Access Asia’s Weekly Website Update – 1st April 2010:

Senegal may not have much to attract tourists, but it does now have something most other potential holiday destinations don’t – a 50 metre high bronze monument crafted by North Koreans. It’s a quick bit of profit for Pyongyang. Hopelessly corrupt and slightly potty Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade wanted a tall bronze statue – and what he wants, he gets. Actually it’s taller than the Statue of Liberty in the very-difficult-to-get-a-visa-in-these-days United States of America. Called “African Renaissance” it stands on a hill near Dakar International Airport and represents a heroic couple apparently about to launch their child into the sky, for some reason unspecified.

President Wade couldn’t afford the statue so he called in Pyongyang as specialists in providing oversized tat. They did, in return for a prime chunk of real estate in exchange. Pyongyang has since sold the land on, making a tasty profit. Senegal, still mired in poverty, now has Africa’s daftest statue and some dodgy property developers in charge of a chunk of their land – fair swap?

UPDATE 3: Great photos here (h/t Marmot)

UPDATE 2: The Wall Street Journal fills in some more details on the Monument:

This month, workers from Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, a North Korean design firm, were putting the finishing touches on a giant copper sculpture of a family. Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade will inaugurate the African Renaissance Monument in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from France, a ceremony he expects the president of North Korea’s Parliament to attend.

“Only the North Koreans could build my statue,” says Mr. Wade, sitting in a red velvet chair in his palace. Moreover, they offer monuments at a good rate, he says: “I had no money.”

North Korea is mainly known for a totalitarian regime overseeing economic failure. But it has also produced a successful export business—building monuments to freedom and independence. The statues’ selling point: They are big, simple and cheap.

Over the past decade, Mansudae has built dozens of statues and monuments for cash-strapped African countries. Botswana cut the ribbon on a memorial to three tribal chiefs in 2005. Neighboring Namibia boasts a bronze of its founding president wielding an AK-47.

The African Renaissance is Mansudae’s biggest work yet, measuring 164 feet high and crowning two barren hills in Dakar called “Les Mamelles” at the westernmost point of Africa. That makes it taller than either the Statue of Liberty (151 feet) or Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer (100 feet). The statue depicts a father holding a baby in his left arm. The man’s right arm is around the waist of the baby’s mother. The three are reaching out to the sky and out to the ocean.

“Its message is about Africa emerging from the darkness, from five centuries of slavery and two centuries of colonialism,” says Mr. Wade.

Africa’s rash of nationalistic monuments, statues and shrines has made Mansudae’s signature aesthetic of socialist realism fashionable. In Benin, for example, a statue of a 19th-century king holds his hand up, symbolically forbidding the French to enter.

Socialist realism is popular “because people can access it easily,” says Mary Jo Arnoldi, curator for African Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution. It is easy to understand for illiterate populations, she says. “But aesthetically, it’s not going to win any prizes.”

In Senegal, however, the statue has been a beacon of discontent, sparking angry newspaper editorials and protests from religious leaders. The statue’s sultry mother figure, dressed in a wisp of fabric that reveals part of a breast and a bare leg, has offended imams in this majority-Muslim country.

Financing details for the project have been murky, and some taxpayers are outraged by the very idea of it when power outages occur daily and university students strike over rising fees. Mr. Wade had no budget for the African Renaissance, so instead offered a prime chunk of state-owned land in exchange, which North Korea has since resold at a large profit, he says.

However, a panel near the base of the monument lists the official budget as $25 million, though foreign government officials estimate its cost at around $70 million. Mr. Wade says he plans to keep 34% of the profit from entrance fees and merchandise for a personal foundation.

The North Korean role is of less concern, though labor unions do lament that Mansudae got the job when an estimated 49% of the population is unemployed: 150 North Koreans are building the statue, helped by just 50 Senegalese. Mamadou Diouf, the head of the Confederation of Autonomous Unions of Senegal, says the project doesn’t look African.

“If [building the statue] was a priority for our country, it could have been done by Senegalese workers in a manner much more in line with our values,” he says.

A short video related to this story can be seen here.

The monument’s location is here.

UPDATE 1: The Guradian brings us up to date with the monument’s construction:


According to the Guardian:

The statue shows a muscular man in a heroic posture, outstretched arms wrapped around his wife and child. Nearly 50 North Korean workers were brought in to build it, because of their expertise with bronze art, and some Senegalese have complained of its communist-era design. It has also drawn criticism from Muslims, who make up 94% of Senegal’s population, because of Islamic prohibitions on representations of the human form.

Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s octogenarian president, has compared the work to some of the west’s best-known landmarks, and some Senegalese do regard it as a symbol of pride that has economic spin-offs.

Alassane Cisse, a Senegalese delegate at the world summit on arts and culture in Johannesburg, South Africa, said: “All cities need signatures, but in Dakar we have had only monuments which existed during colonisation. Africa needs its own great monuments like the Eiffel tower and the Statue of Liberty. This symbol of African renaissance will motivate people to rehabilitate and work with Africa.”

He added that the site has exhibition, multimedia and conference rooms, as well as a top-floor viewing platform giving a bird’s eye view of Dakar. “It will be a cultural place. Around the monument there will be a theatre and shops. Many tourists will visit there, so the economic effects will benefit the population.”

But the president has sparked anger by maintaining that he is entitled to 35% of any tourist revenues it generates, because he owns the “intellectual rights”.

Critics say the £17m could have been used for more pressing concerns. Djiby Diakhate, a sociologist at Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop university, told the Associated Press: “Senegal is going through a profound crisis. Our economy is dying. People are struggling to eat. We should be spending money helping people survive.”

ORIGINAL POST: As some readers may be aware, I have been tracking down monuments and buildings constructed by North Korea’s Mansude Overseas Project Group.  To date, I have tracked down quite a few (see North Korea Uncovered for the full list).

One such find is the “Monument to the African Renaissance” in Dakar, Senegal.  See this Voice of America story for background.  Well, a friend of mine recently visited Dakar and snapped this photo of the monument’s construction:


Click on image for larger version

I believe we can see a leg on the lower left.  The majority of the construction so far seems to be support.

Note to readers: if you are aware of any other North Korean-built (or operated) buildings/monuments/businesses/restaurants in your country, please let me know. I do not believe a comprehensive list of these projects exists, so getting this information together now will certainly be valuable to future historians. How is that for motivation?


Syria’s Tishreen War Panorama

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Visitors to Pyongyang’s Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Location here) will be interested to know that the DPRK has exported its museum technology to Syria’s Tishreen War Panorama (Location here).


The images are from this web page.

According to an official web page (I think), the panorama dimensions are 129.5m x 7.8m.  It was painted by Kim Sing Chol, O Kwang Ho, Ri Jae Su, Ri Kap Il, Kim Chol Jin, Choe Song Sik, Ri Jong Gap, Kim Ki Dok, Cha Yo Sang, Ri Yon Nam, and it opened on 6th October 1999.  These artists are employees of the Mansudae Overseas Development Group (Art Studio).

I thank a reader for sending me this information.  I have been mapping North Korean projects in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East on Google Earth.  Here are some I have blogged about: Monument to African Renaissanace, Zimbabwe Hero’s Park, Ethiopia’s Derg Monument, Kinshasa Kabila Statue, and quite a few more.  If you are aware of any North Korea projects in your area please let me know.

UPDATE: Cairo’s October War Panorama is also built by the North Koreans.   It appears to have nearly identical architecture.  It is located here.