SIEM REAP – 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.”