North Korea may be poor, but it has no shortage of cheap labourers and architects. In fact, Kim Jong Il has been lending them out to build monuments, palaces—even football stadiums—for leaders across Africa. In return, he’s getting foreign cash: the construction projects may have earned the country US$160 million since 2000 alone, the South Korean news service Daily NK reported.
The countries where North Korea has found the most success are also places whose leaders can relate to a self-declared Supreme Leader like Kim Jong Il: Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Congo, all repeat customers, whose presidents came to power when Jimmy Carter was in office.
The president of Senegal, one of the more democratic countries on North Korea’s client list, faced protests when his US$20-million, 50-m-high African Renaissance monument was unveiled in April. It features a man rising from a volcano, with a barely clothed woman in one arm and a baby in the other. It drew criticism from Muslim leaders for the immodest dress and suggestion of idolatry, while others were outraged by the cost. But President Abdoulaye Wade said the statue symbolizes how Africans emerged from centuries of racism and slavery. It’s unclear if anyone noticed the irony of a monument to freedom built by North Koreans.