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North Korea shuts down Pyongyang model village

AFPAFP 14/06/2016
The Grand People's Study House and the Pyongyang city skyline, seen from the Yanggakdo hotel © Provided by AFP The Grand People's Study House and the Pyongyang city skyline, seen from the Yanggakdo hotel

North Korea has closed a multi-million dollar model village in Pyongyang because it reminds leader Kim Jong-Un of his executed uncle who managed the project, media reports said on Tuesday.

Pyongyang Folk Village, which features miniature versions of the capital's buildings, was completed in 2012, with Kim describing it as the brainchild of his deceased father Kim Jong-Il.

Its construction was overseen by Jang Song-Thaek, once the second most powerful man in North Korea who was convicted of treason and executed in late 2013.

Jang was described as a "traitor" to the nation and derided as "despicable human scum... worse than a dog" in the announcement of his death by the official KCNA news agency.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted sources as saying that Kim ordered "Mini Pyongyang" to be dismantled as it reminded him of Jang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C-front) and his uncle, Jang Song-Thaek (L), seen during a concert at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, in 2013 © Provided by AFP North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C-front) and his uncle, Jang Song-Thaek (L), seen during a concert at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, in 2013

"Whenever Kim passed by Pyongyang Folk Village, he often complained it brought Jang back to his mind," one source was quoted as saying.

A second source said the ruling communist party had withdrawn and shredded brochures promoting the village.

Nick Bonner, Director of Koryo Tours, a China-based travel agency that specialises in tours to North Korea, said the country's tourism authority told the company the closure was temporary.

"We were told last week it's closed for renovation," he told AFP.

Tourist trips to the site are rare, he said, adding that visitors prefer to see the real Pyongyang rather than its model replica.

The 200-hectare (500-acre) model village features scaled versions of propaganda monuments and buildings in Pyongyang, including the Juche (self-independence) tower topped with the torch of revolution.

It also contains replicas of palaces that existed at the time of the Koryo dynasty, which ruled from the 10th to the 14th centuries.

According to estimates in South Korean media, the village cost millions of dollars to build.

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