SEOUL, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- North Korea's domestic industry of art production is earning tens of millions of dollars overseas with commissioned statues, murals and paintings – and continues to be a source of capital for Pyongyang.
North Korea undertakes custom orders from governments but also from prominent families. Italian clothier Benetton recently received an order of large-scale embroidery from North Korea, and the North Korean art studio Mansudae Overseas Projects was responsible for a new museum in Cambodia.
Mansudae is located in Pyongyang and according to Pier Luigi Cecioni, the exclusive Italian representative for the studio, Mansudae is an art campus of sorts, "the biggest in the world."
The studio earns the bulk of its revenues in Africa, raking in tens of millions of dollars exporting socialist-style bronze statues to countries like Senegal, where the government paid for a 161-foot statue called the African Renaissance Monument.
North Korea's style of sculpture is no longer in vogue in former communist bloc countries, which accounts for some of its appeal.
"The Russians and Chinese don't make that kind of stuff any more," said William Feaver, an art critic. "You could think of Mount Rushmore as the American version, performing a similar celebration of founding fathers for a relatively new nation keen to assert itself in the world."
Pyongyang's tradition of building monolithic sculptures that idolize leaders or socialist ideology dates back to its founding days – and the country continues to fervently idolize leaders, past and present.
On Tuesday, North Korea honored the 74th birth anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il, the father of current leader Kim Jong Un, Yonhap reported.
North Korea's state-controlled news service Pyongyang Broadcasting stated the former Kim was the "eternal sun" of North Korea's ideology of self-reliance, and that North Korea is "determined to follow Kim Jong Un's guidance to fulfill unification and prosperity."